UCL Centre for Systems Engineering


Studying Part Time

How will I juggle study and work commitments?

We won't claim that studying part-time while working and having a home life is easy - but we have many years of experience successfully supporting our students through what is ultimately a rewarding experience. Though it is permissible to study full-time, this masters programme has been developed specifically for those studying while continuing to work. The viewpoint of the part time student and that of their employer has informed the design of every detail of the programme's delivery. For example, we have intensive 1 week face-to-face teaching blocks, research components that can be completed in the student's own workplace and we use an e-learning platform to allow students to conveniently access all course materials and submit assignments online. 

How long will it take?

The MSc or PGDip in Management of Complex Projects must be completed within 5 years, and the PGCert must be completed within 3 years. Within these limits, the pace of study is determined by you.

For example, one approach to complete the MSc degree within 3 years would be (for context, 120-180 credits is typically considered 'full time' study):

  • Year 1: 3 taught modules (45 credits)
  • Year 2: 3 taught modules (45 credits)
  • Year 3: Project Simulation group project and 2 research modules (90 credits)

Taking fewer credits a year over 5 years might look like:

  • Year 1: 2 taught modules (30 credits)
  • Year 2: 2 taught modules (30 credits)
  • Year 3: 2 taught modules (30 credits)
  • Year 4: Project Simulation and the Research Project Concept (30 credits)
  • Year 5: Research Project (60 credits)

In any case, our students' experience demonstrates that learning benefits will be realised much sooner than the completion of the qualification itself. The flip side of the demands imposed by part time study while working is that knowledge and skills developed in the classroom are immediately applicable in practice. Our students find that the principles we teach have ready application in the workplace and of course, the research components are specifically designed to focus on actual problems your organisation may be facing.     

What if unpredicted work commitments become too much?

At the beginning of each academic year you will register for the modules you plan to complete in that year. Once module registrations are confirmed, UCL considers this a binding commitment to complete the module in that year. So you need to think carefully about what might happen at work and select the modules appropriately. You will be assigned a personal tutor at the beginning of your studies who will be happy to talk over your plans before you select your modules.

How much time and effort is required to complete a taught module?

Each taught module is 15 credits, which is equivalent to 150 hours of study. 

All teaching sessions are full of exercises and interaction. Our students are professional engineers so we don't try to make you sit back and be lectured at - we get everyone actively participating with questions, discussion and exercises. Our commitment to relevant and practical applications of module content is demonstrated by the emphasis we have on case study work. Typically each module has time dedicated to group work on case studies, which helps you to consolidate your learning on the module.

The assessment used for taught modules varies, but is generally either a 3,500 word assignment, or a 2,000 word assignment plus an exam. Assignments are set during the module teaching week, and due on a given date around 3-4 weeks after module completion. Exams are set during one of three exam periods that take place during the academic year. 

You should expect the Project Simulation to take about the same amount of time as a taught module, with each student spending around 5 days on group work plus a similar amount of time preparing the report and presentation.


How much time and effort is required to complete the research project elements?

There are two research project elements - the project management research project concept and the project itself. Only MSc students will complete both. 

The project concept is a 15 credit module, so this is equivalent to around 150 study hours. The work includes a literature search that demonstrates the research need and justifies the problem definition and scope of the proposed project. You will be producing a project plan report of around 3000 words and will need to give a 20 minute presentation. 

The dissertation is a significant piece of research work worth 60 credits, which implies around 600 hours of effort. A supervisor will be allocated to support you and typically you will have a number of meetings (in person or by phone) during the module completion. How your work load will be distributed in time will depend very much on the nature of the project undertaken. Most students tackle an issue relevant to their work, which often implies some work can be carried out during their normal working week. In any case, the research findings must be presented in a dissertation of around 12,000 words. Once this is submitted, the final step to complete the module is an assessed presentation of your findings.   

What resources will I have access to?

As a fully enrolled student, you have access to the UCL library, which hold digital and electronic collections accessible off-site as well as the extensive print collections held on campus. 

All registered students have access to the programme's Moodle, which is an e-learning platform. Through this you will access all course related documents such as timetables, course handouts and required reading material. Assignments are conveniently submitted electronically via this platform. It also hosts a student forum, which tutors and students use to communicate, ask questions and discuss ideas or course issues.

What support will I get?

We have a number of support mechanisms for our students:

  • Our programme administration team ensures your course enrolments match your requirements and that you have all the information you need to complete assessments. 
  • Every module has a Leader and Deputy that continue to be available to support students after the module's teaching is complete. They will run tutorial sessions related to the course and be able to answer questions about course content as you complete your assignment and prepare for your exam.
  • When undertaking the research project concept and research project modules, you will be allocated a research supervisor. They will be an expert in an appropriate field and will mentor and guide you through to completion.
  • You will be allocated a personal tutor who will support you in your studies from initial registration to completion of the programme. This is a pastoral role rather than an academic one and they will typically be your first port of call with any issues that need resolving. They will help you access the appropriate resources at UCL during your time with us.