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MScOperational Research (distance learning)

Why this course?

Operational Research (called "Operations Research" in some parts of the world) has been briefly described as the "scientific analysis of decisions". It's concerned with assisting and advising decision-makers in a wide variety of settings.

The MSc in Operational Research aims to realise the potential of graduates, so that you immediately can play an effective role in providing model-based support to managers helping them to make better decisions at an operational/technical level. 

You’ll develop a rigorous academic understanding of advanced analytical methods that are used to provide structured and analytical approaches to decision-making. You’ll also develop practical skills in using operational research models to support decision-makers.

You’ll study

All classes are taught using material presented via the internet. Classes are supported by faculty members who also teach on the full-time course. They will guide and support discussion via discussion forums.

The programme contains three stages. In progressing towards completion of the MSc students will undertake the following:

Postgraduate Certificate in Operational Research

This includes five compulsory classes and one elective class all of which can be completed fully online.

Compulsory classes
  1. Foundations of Operational Research & Business Analysis
  2. Quantitative Business Analysis
  3. Managing Business Operations
  4. Spreadsheet Modelling & Demand Forecasting
  5. Operational Research Methods
Elective classes

One optional class chosen from:

  1. Business Simulation Methods
  2. Risk Analysis & Management
  3. Decision Analysis
  4. Advanced Operations Research Modelling using specialist software tools

Postgraduate Diploma in Operational Research

After completion of the Postgraduate certificate two further elective classes and one compulsory class are required to be undertaken.

Compulsory class
  1. Becoming an effective operational research modeller
Elective classes

Two elective classes chosen from same list as for the Postgraduate Certificate.

If you wish to proceed to the Postgraduate Diploma you need to be in appropriate employment. The final decision as to what is "appropriate employment" remains with the University of Strathclyde. However, if your employment covers all of the following, you're likely to be in the correct type of post:

  • solving problems owned by someone else
  • ill-defined problems
  • working in teams
  • the opportunity to use a variety of Business Analysis techniques
  • your work has an influence on the operation of your organisations

Your employment should require some analysis of business situations, in the private or public sector. Samples of your work will form the basis of reflection and learning projects, guided by a personal mentor.

MSc in Operational Research

Students who complete the Diploma and gain sufficient marks to proceed to the MSc will be expected to undertake a project. The project will be integrated with your employment. You'll have individual personal mentoring to guide you in reflection and learning.

Technical requirements

To undertake this course you need to have:

  • Modern PC running Windows Vista or higher, web cam, headset with microphone
  • Minimum 2Mb/sec broadband connection
  • Microsoft Excel 2010 or higher

NB: Some of the course software is Windows-only and will not run under Linux or on Macintosh computers so use of a PC or PC-emulation software is essential if these operating systems are used.

Start dates

You can start the Certificate programme in October or April. The Diploma course usually runs between September and May, though there is some flexibility with this. It's followed by the project which has a flexible timetable.

Normally, a student should be able to complete the MSc programme in around two and a half years. Please contact us if you need advice about the best start date for you.

Course content

Compulsory classes

Foundations of Research & Business Analysis
This class will explore the generic problem solving process which underpins the provision of decision support. In particular, it'll consider the role of modelling in that process. The activities of problem structuring, data collection and analysis, identification and evaluation of options, communication and implementation of learning, findings and recommendations will each be discussed along with the issues pertaining to each of them.
Quantitative Business Analysis

Quantitative Business Analysis runs over one semester but in two parts. The first part provides an introduction to the basic theory and application of statistical modelling. Topics covered included data analysis, probability theory, distributions and moments, estimation and hypothesis testing.

The second part focuses mainly on two areas - regression modelling and multivariate analysis. While key background theory will be presented, the emphasis is on the generation and interpretation of output from commercially available software.

Background reading for Quantitative Business Analysis

Managing Business Operations
This class teaches essential principles, tools and techniques of Operations Management – both in general and as applied to specific manufacturing or service businesses. A section of the class focuses on service operations, where specific subjects and operational issues surrounding services will be discussed.
Spreadsheet Modelling & Demand Forecasting

This module will demonstrate how spreadsheets can be used to support the analytical techniques whose theory is taught on other modules. For example, forecasting, simulation, optimisation, data analysis, as well as being used to support technical report writing.

Most prominence is given to demand forecasting and you'll be introduced to different types of forecasting technique for short term smoothing through to decompositional analysis. These methods will be implemented using spreadsheet models.

Operational Research Methods

This module introduces the fundamental deterministic and stochastic methods of OR. Probabilistic modelling is fundamental to appreciating uncertainty and risk. This element of the class provides much of the foundations that underpin the tools and techniques that are taught on other classes of the MSc such as statistics, forecasting, risk and simulation.

The module also introduces students into the basic deterministic models and methods of OR.

Becoming an Effective OR Modeller
The broad aims of the class are to develop skills in the effective practice of using OR models and an appreciation of the issues which may arise.

Elective classes

Business Simulation Methods

The module will focus on the main two forms of business simulation; discrete-event simulation (DES) and system dynamics (a continuous simulation technique). For DES, the class will start with an introduction, aiming to familiarise students with the concept and its use.

It continues with discussing a rational approach to simulation using a number of examples from manufacturing and service operations. For system dynamics the class will provide a background to system dynamics including its links to other modelling techniques being taught on the course, in particular, its links to problem structuring methods.

Risk Analysis & Management

This module will explore the entire process of structuring a risk problem, from modelling it to communicating recommendations, both theoretically and in practice.

Risk management is linked with decision analysis in so far as we explore decision making under uncertainty and it has links with quantitative business analysis as we explore the use of statistics in understanding risk. However, the topic has some unique attributes such as risk communication and the role that experts play in risk assessment.

Advanced Operational Research Modelling Using Specialist Software Tools

This module builds upon the methods introduced in core modules in deterministic and stochastic OR. In particular, OR methods, quantitative business analysis, decision analysis.

In the core modules, the theory and application of methods to relatively small problems are considered. This module extends the approach to consider larger scale modelling and more advanced techniques using appropriate specialist software as well as programming techniques.

Business Information Systems

The class adopts a process-based approach, ie all discussion follows the logic of the business processes. You'll be introduced to Business and Information Systems (BIS) as well as the various types of IS, including the databases, Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) systems, knowledge-based systems, corporate portals and collaboration support systems.

Lectures will provide you with the conceptual knowledge, and in tutorials you'll gain hands-on experience of using packages of the various IS categories.

The MSc project is the most substantial and independent piece of work you'll carry out during the course. You will contact your client and your supervisors and manage the whole relationship with them. The projects vary but they typically involve understanding the real-life problem through problem structuring, identifying the data requirements, review of the relevant domain literature, making methodological choices based on arguments from the methodology literature, data collection, appropriate data analysis and modelling, developing and presentation of findings and recommendations.

Learning & teaching

All classes are taught using material presented via the internet. Classes are supported by faculty members who also teach on the full-time course. They'll guide and support discussion via forums.

Virtual Learning Environment (VLE)

As a registered student on this programme you will have full access to our user-friendly VLE. Benefits of using the VLE include:

Anytime, anywhere learning

At home, at work, on the move, in an internet cafe - all you need is your username and password.

Access to tutors throughout your course

Unlike many other online courses, you're not simply given your materials and left to get on with it. You're a full student of the University of Strathclyde. Tutor support is equal to that on our other, face-to-face, courses. Tutors and support staff include lecturers and academics whose prime concern is your progress through the course.

Continuously updated, dynamic, interactive online materials

We constantly update and revise our material.

Online group discussions

Group discussion is an integral part of the learning process on the all of our distance programmes. Some issues are developed best by peer discussion, often with tutor involvement.

Live question & answer sessions

Classes often have a "Question& Answer" session, broadcast live by video, audio and text. This is an opportunity for students to ask questions in a group forum. These sessions are archived on the website for those unable to be present at the time.

Live conferencing

Several sessions of the Postgraduate Diploma are conducted using live conferencing and online collaboration software such as Elluminate and FlashMeeting.


Each module includes two pieces of assessment. Around half of these will be assignments and the other half will be by examination at local centres.

Entry requirements

Applicants for the Certificate should normally hold at least the equivalent of a UK pass degree.

Students from a wide variety of first degrees are accepted onto the course. Many students have first degrees in business, economics, engineering and the social sciences. However, we also encourage applications from other degrees.

English language requirements

In addition to academic qualifications, you must also be able to show that you have a sufficient grasp of English. If English is not your first language you'll need to provide evidence of your proficiency before you can begin the course. See the University's English language requirements webpage for details of what is required.

Mathematics requirements

Some of the classes will require some mathematical manipulation. Knowledge of the topics below may well be expected. If you have problems with any of these you'll be required to do additional pre-course reading.

Ability to use a scientific calculator

Capable of using and understanding functions such as exp, log, x^y on a calculator.

Algebraic notation and manipulation; subscripts; simple results

Should feel comfortable manipulating equations and working with subscript notation. For example, student should be able to solve a quadratic equation, such as

x2 + 2x + 1 = 0

Logs and exponentials

Have a general understanding of the use of logs and exponentials.

The ability to carry out logarithmic transformations.

An understanding of the logarithmic and exponential laws of summation, division etc.

Graphs of simple functions

Ability to draw and interpret graphs of simple linear and non-linear mathematical functions.

Differentiation (including differentiation of a product)

The idea of a differential equation.

An understanding of when differentiation is used

Ability to carry out differentiation on different functions, including functions that include the product of two variables.

A basic understanding of how to solve equations that involve one or more derivatives.

An understanding of what integration is.

Integration of polynomials and ex; integration by parts.

Understanding of when the use of integration is appropriate and the ability to carry out the integration of functions that contain variables with nonnegative integer powers.

Finite sums

Infinite sums of xi and xi /i!

Ability to carry out sums of arithmetic and geometric series.

Ability to sum infinite series of elements that have the form ?xi or ?xi/i!, where, for example, i = 1 to 8.

Simple manipulation of vectors and matrices

Ability to carry out simple manipulation, such as addition, subtraction and multiplication of vectors and matrices.

Fees & funding


All fees quoted are for full-time courses and per academic year unless stated otherwise.


  • Stage 1: £7,800 (Postgraduate Certificate)
  • Stage 2: £4,900 (Postgraduate Diploma)
  • Stage 3: £1,850 (MSc)

Rest of UK

  • Stage 1: £7,800 (Postgraduate Certificate)
  • Stage 2: £4,900 (Postgraduate Diploma)
  • Stage 3: £1,850 (MSc)


  • Stage 1: £7,800 (Postgraduate Certificate)
  • Stage 2: £4,900 (Postgraduate Diploma)
  • Stage 3: £1,850 (MSc)



  • Stage 1: £8,100 (Postgraduate Certificate)
  • Stage 2: £5,100 (Postgraduate Diploma)
  • Stage 3: £1,950 (MSc)

Rest of UK

  • Stage 1: £8,100 (Postgraduate Certificate)
  • Stage 2: £5,100 (Postgraduate Diploma)
  • Stage 3: £1,950 (MSc)


  • Stage 1: £8,100 (Postgraduate Certificate)
  • Stage 2: £5,100 (Postgraduate Diploma)
  • Stage 3: £1,950 (MSc)

Scottish and non-UK EU postgraduate students

Scottish and non-UK EU postgraduate students may be able to apply for support from the Student Awards Agency Scotland (SAAS). The support is in the form of a tuition fee loan and for eligible students, a living cost loan. Find out more about the support and how to apply.

Don’t forget to check our scholarship search for more help with fees and funding.

Students coming from England

Students ordinarily resident in England may be to apply for postgraduate support from Student Finance England. The support is a loan of up to £10,280 which can be used for both tuition fees and living costs. Find out more about the support and how to apply.

Don’t forget to check our scholarship search for more help with fees and funding.

Students coming from Wales

Students ordinarily resident in Wales may be to apply for postgraduate support from Student Finance Wales. The support is a loan of up to £10,280 which can be used for both tuition fees and living costs. Find out more about the support and how to apply.

Don’t forget to check our scholarship search for more help with fees and funding.

Students coming from Northern Ireland

Postgraduate students who are ordinarily resident in Northern Ireland may be able to apply for support from Student Finance Northern Ireland. The support is a tuition fee loan of up to £5,500. Find out more about the support and how to apply.

Don’t forget to check our scholarship search for more help with fees and funding.

International students

We have a large range of scholarships available to help you fund your studies. Check our scholarship search for more help with fees and funding.

Please note

The fees shown are annual and may be subject to an increase each year. Find out more about fees.


In the department, we have very good links with business and have hosted recruitment events for many companies including Barclay’s Wealth, British Airways, Deloitte, Morgan Stanley, Rolls Royce, Sopra and SIMUL8, to name a few.

The skills you learn in the MSc make you very marketable to potential employers. Other employers where our graduates have found work include Clydesdale Bank, HSBC, PWC, RBS, Roland Berger and the Scottish Government.

Contact us

  • University of Strathclyde Alison Kerr, Administrative Assistant (Distance Learning enquiries) +44(0)141 548 3613 Department of Management Science, University of Strathclyde, Sir Wiliam Duncan Building, 130 Rottenrow, Glasgow, G4 0GE


Operational Research - Distance Learning (April)

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Operational Research - Distance Learning

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