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Project Management in the Built Environment

MSc / PGDip / PGCert

School of the Built Environment

Accredited by Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors (RICS) and Chartered Institute of Building (CIOB).

The MSc in Project Management in the Built Environment is designed to meet the growing demand for project managers in the industry who can oversee the entire life cycle of any project, including unique and specialist developments. It is ideal for anyone with ambitions to manage projects within this sector.

We consult extensively with people from a wide spectrum of companies and organisations in order to make sure that the course content remains practically relevant. Our Professional Liaison Group (PLG), which is made up of practitioners in the field, exists to provide advice on existing and proposed courses of study, on research activities and consultancy work. In addition, we use our alumni network to benefit from the views of professionals in prominent positions, who were also students at Oxford Brookes University.

The MSc is available as a one-year, full-time (FT) programme or as an distance-learning (DL) programme, which is normally taken over two years (minimum). Both FT and DL study modes include intensive study periods on-campus in Oxford, which are not compulsory. There is a compulsory European Field-trip. There are two entry points: September and January. You may choose to exit at the PGCert or PGDip stage, but please note that these exit awards are not accredited by RICS or CIOB.


Available start dates

January 2019 / September 2019 / January 2020 / September 2020

Teaching location

Headington Campus

Course length

  • Full time: 13 months (Sept start), 17 months (Jan start)
  • Part time: Distance learning only - 25 months (Sept start), 29 months (Jan start)

For full application details, please see the 'How to apply / Entry requirements' section.

  • Strong links with prominent companies in the sector, such as Mace, Willmott Dixon and BAM Construction, and professional institutions (the RICS and the CIOB), who can provide advice on existing and proposed courses of study, on research activities and consultancy work. Our alumni network spans the globe, working in countries including Malaysia, South Africa, Russia, Turkey,  Hong Kong, India and USA.
  • Professional Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors (RICS) and Chartered Institute of Building (CIOB) accreditation. 
  • Problem-based learning (PBL) approach which ensures that the MSc is real-world focused and holistic. Not only is this more effective, it is more fun than the traditional study and examination approach. One intensive study period in each semester where full-time and distance learning students come together on campus to attend lectures, seminars and workshops; and to share experiences.
  • Extensive online learning material provided to all students via the Virtual Learning Environment (VLE) - our own intranet site, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.
  • Teaching backed by strong research activity. Many of our academic staff are involved in academic research and/or professional or commercial consultancy work. In the recent Research Excellence Framework (REF 2014) we were 11th in terms of Research Impact and Power Rating (GPA x number of full-time equivalent staff submitted) among the 45 institutions that submitted to our unit of assessment (UoA 16).
  • The School's membership of a select group of RICS accredited universities acting as RICS' ambassadors; and to be among the signatories to the RICS Initiative to Drive the Adoption of Sustainable Development Principles in Built Environment Higher Education in line with the Six Principles under UN PRME (Principles for Responsible Management Education).

Professional accreditation

RICS and/or CIOB members are well-sought after in the job market.

If you have no or very limited relevant experience in the industry, holding this RICS & CIOB accredited MSc reduces the duration of your structured training (or relevant experience post-qualification) to become a member from five years to 24 months.

Many of our open-learning students run their structured training along-side the course. Thus, they become members of these institutions shortly after the completion of the course.

In summary, the programme offers a relatively quick route to RICS & CIOB membership for people who have no or very limited experience in the industry, and hence increases their potential for employment.

There are two modes of delivery for the MSc PMBE: full-time on campus or distance learning, and there are two entry points - September and January.  PGCert and PGDip are offered as 'exit' awards. Candidates who are wishing to graduate with one of these awards, should also apply for a MSc place in the first instance. 

Extensive on-line learning material is provided to all students via the Virtual Learning Environment (VLE) - our own intranet site. Students have access to this site 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. The course is assessed by 100% coursework submitted via the VLE. Module leaders can be contacted via the VLE, e-mail, telephone and Skype.

Intensive Study Periods - all students can attend four intensive study periods during their programme and these are normally around 3 days long. Students (and staff) enjoy these intensive sessions as they are able to share experiences and knowledge as well as renew friendships and make connections that extend into the industry. The open-learning students get the opportunity to meet face-to-face with staff. The organisation and the collaborative nature of these intensive study periods is always praised by our students who particularly like the site visits, workshops and guest lectures from industry experts that are among the key features.

Distance learners must find their own accommodation and are asked to cover expenses for travel to Oxford, accommodation and food. 

Field Trips and Site Visits - there are a number of field trips and site visits which take place mainly during the intensive study periods. There is one European field trip during the MSc programme and this normally takes place at the end of January each year - usually to the Netherlands. As well as bringing together full-time and open-learning students, the aim of this field trip is to integrate knowledge gained in the early part of the programme, to develop team skills and to build relationships. With the European field trip we also expose students to project management practices outside the UK and encourage them to observe and report on the different approaches to managing projects in the UK, their own countries and overseas. 

The European Field Trip takes place at the end of January for the duration of five days and four nights.  Heavily subsidised by the School, a coach is also provided to transport students and staff from Oxford Brookes to the field trip destination.  Please read the details further down the page for information about additional costs for the field trip.

In order to attend site visits as part of the programme of study, we ask that students provide their own Personal Protective Equipment (PPE):

  • Safety boots
  • Hard hat
  • High visibility vest
  • Eye protection
  • Gloves

Problem Based Learning - the programme will develop knowledge of current practice and issues in the built environment sector as well as building real-life skills including the exploration of interdisciplinary problems. We have responded to requests from industry to make our masters more practical by using an applied approach to learning, sometimes called “Problem Based Learning” or PBL. This approach encourages learning by allowing students to actively puzzle through problems that are adapted from complex real situations. As real problems cross discipline boundaries and require research and collaboration, we use our links with industrial practitioners to help devise the problems we use in class. This leads to a more exciting and relevant student experience.  

Module Outlines

People, Leadership and Organisations aims to develop the students’ knowledge and understanding of how behavioural and organisational issues influence project performance and how they can be harnessed to effectively deliver projects. It includes an overview of management approaches, an exploration of the issues around understanding self and understanding others, team theory and leadership, communication, conflict resolution strategies and negotiation; and learning from experience in project environments. These themes are studied in the context of personal and cultural differences.

To a large extent the module adopts a problem-based learning (PBL) approach. Here, PBL is facilitated through problem-solving exercises that are based on prominent case studies and game play exercises.

Project Planning, Control and Risk prepares students to manage projects within the built environment through the use of advanced planning and control techniques. Students will learn and apply a range of skills in project planning, scheduling, monitoring and control that includes cash flow and capital expenditure analysis, value management, risk and opportunity management and the use of software-based decision support tools as used in industry.  

Construction Law and Procurement starts with the consideration of project procedure and participants and their roles in different types of projects in the built environment. Through the aspects of law needed to understand construction procurement and contracts, to the various forms of building contracts and procurement procedures, the module covers alternative procurement routes and current trends in procurement in both the public and private sectors, placing a particular emphasis on collaboration and best practice. Furthermore, it covers the basics of planning law and building regulations and looks at specific issues related to contract terms, professional liability and property torts.

Managing Technology for Sustainable Environments - design techniques and technological innovations and how they are used and managed are key elements in the development of our built environment.  This module introduces these as considerations that should be made at the inception and briefing stages of a project, not as afterthoughts later in the process. It also recognises that design and construction are not devoid of the human dimension - the contexts within which a construction project is situated, including influences of climate, culture, and surrounding and supporting infrastructures are also important. There is also an examination of the design and building processes, and the end-product-buildings, as continuously changing entities. Students should not study developments in design and technology in isolation, but as part of a continuously innovating industry. In this respect, managing Building Information Modelling (BIM), developments in off-site construction and low carbon construction are covered as part of the module.

Applied Research Methods provides students with the fundamentals of research design highlighting the difference between qualitative and quantitative research paradigms and demonstrates how data can be both gathered and analysed and how deductive arguments can be used to produce valid generalisations from data. It also provides students with an overview of particular research techniques such that they can choose and develop those tools most appropriate to their Dissertation.

Dissertation - follows on from Applied Research Methods and aims not only to generate new knowledge or insights but also to develop students’ capacities to undertake rigorous research, to plan and execute an extended project and to communicate complex ideas effectively in words and graphically. Each student will work with a supervisor from within the department to produce an original piece of work of publishable quality, generally, through conducting their own primary research and presenting their findings in a professional manner.

We ask for two printed copies of the final dissertation, one soft and one hard bound.  Dissertation hard binding costs around £35.00. Open-learning students will incur the postal charge to send hard-copies to Oxford. 

Teaching and learning

Teaching, learning and assessment methods are to a considerable degree determined by the use of problem-based learning (PBL) which encourages students to learn by applying theoretical principles in appropriate case studies. PBL leads to a more challenging and industrially relevant course than the traditional lecture approach. Learning takes place through groups of students puzzling through problems, often adapted from real situations with much of the complexity and context intact, using published resources, or reference to experts who are available to offer advice.

In full-time mode, the delivery of new material is generally bi-weekly with intermediate tutorial or seminar sessions. The intensive study periods and a European field trip, when students in both modes of study come together, complement this delivery pattern. Outside these periods, online learning is the primary mode of learning for open-learning study. Where necessary, open-learning students are supported by email, Skype, on-line lectures and telephone during the periods off-campus.

Approach to assessment

Problem-based learning (PBL), which is adopted as appropriate, results in sustainable learning when students are provided with continuous, constructive feedback. Our assessment strategy is underpinned by this need.

PBL facilitates learning through solving problems. Problem-solving underpins the assessment tasks which are designed to reflect ‘real-life’ scenarios as closely as possible. Blended/open-learning students are actively encouraged to bring their work-place experiences into the ‘classroom’.

Assessment is 100% coursework, which includes a great variety of types of work, including quizzes taken remotely on Moodle (Brookes' virtual learning environment- VLE). Material can be downloaded from our virtual learning environment and closed discussions can take place. It also enables on-campus and open-learning students to remain in contact with each other.

All coursework must be submitted online via the Virtual Learning Environment.  Therefore there are no required printing costs for the core modules.  

Specialist facilities

The School has a computer room dedicated to building information modelling (BIM). We run 3D, 4D and 5D applications and other relevant software packages such as Microsoft Project. Where necessary, arrangements are made for the students to have remote access to the specialist software packages.  

During your programme of study you will be introduced to and actively use Building Information Modelling software.  We use the Autodesk Suite, in particular Revit, Navisworks and Asta PowerProject.  While a student you may register for free use of the software, available through www.autodesk.com/education

The following IT specifications are required to use BIM software:

  • At least 12GB Ram
  • At least 1TB hard-drive

Distance learners will also need to create a Skype account for communication.

Field trips

A European field trip is a compulsory element of the PGCert modules. It typically takes place over a five-day period towards the end of January and is heavily subsidised by the School.

A coach is also provided to transport students and staff from Oxford Brookes to the field trip destination. Students are asked to cover the following expenses:

  • A contribution towards accommodation (around £100)
  • Travel expenses if student chooses to fly direct to the destination or to join the coach at Oxford Brookes
  • Lunches and evening meals
  • Any other personal expenditures. 

The aim of this field trip is to consolidate the knowledge gained in the early part of the course and to develop team and other relationships through exposing our students to European project management practices and to assess their ability to observe and report on the different approaches to project management in the UK and in a European country.

The field trip normally consists of visits to prominent construction/engineering projects and sites, plus architectural attractions, both en route and at the destination. You are introduced to the development and planning practices at the destination, as well as having the opportunity to visit major complex projects.

Student body

The programme attracts students from diverse backgrounds and locations. 

Many of our current students already hold degrees in fields outside the realm of the built environment including law, psychology and geography, and have decided to contribute to the development of the built environment around us by effectively managing projects. They hail from as far afield as Nigeria and India, with backgrounds ranging from languages to architecture. 

This diverse group of students bring with them individual responses to the PBL approach that is at the core of our course delivery.

Typically the open-learning students are employed by a number of different organisations from the private and public sectors in different countries. They have the opportunity to share their experiences in order to gain better understanding of the industry, the range of challenges that project managers face, and therefore the breadth of skills that they need to develop in order to perform successfully. 

Our full-time students benefit from contact with the open-learning students engaged in project management roles in a variety of built environment projects across many countries.

Attendance pattern

The University runs two semesters of 12 weeks. The last week of a semester is dedicated to revision.

Full-time (FT) students take two 30-credit modules each semester, as well as the Research Methods module which is 10 credits and runs across two semesters. Typically, each 30-credit module is delivered through two two-hour sessions each week. FT students undertake their dissertation once they complete the thought part of the course.

Distance learning (DL) students can easily fit studying around their busy schedules. Online delivery provides the flexibility for 24/7 learning. DL students are strongly advised to attend the intensive study periods, which are typically three days long. There is one each semester.

All students MUST attend the European field trip which normally takes place in late January and runs from Sunday to Thursday. The associated costs have been outlined in the field trips section. 

Programme changes

On rare occasions we may need to make changes to our course programmes after they have been published on the website. For more information, please visit our Changes to programmes page.

Tuition fees

Home/EU - full time fee: 2019/20: £7,270 2020/21 £9,000

Home/EU - distance learning fee: 2019/20: £3,710 2020/21 £4,500

International - full time: 2019/20: £14,000 2020/21 £14,700

International - distance learning fee: 2019/20: £6,080 2020/21 £7,350

Where distance learning fees are quoted this is for the first year only. Fees will increase by up to 4% each year.

Please be aware that some courses will involve some additional costs that are not covered by your fees. Specific additional costs for this course, if any, are detailed in the 'This course in detail' window above.

Questions about fees?
Contact Student Finance on:
+44 (0)1865 483088

Funding and scholarships

Entry requirements

The course is open to applicants who hold a 2.1 undergraduate honours degree (or international equivalent) in any discipline.
We will actively consider applications from candidates with lower degrees, who can evidence substantiated & relevant experience in construction.

Industry professionals with suitable practice qualifications (e.g MRICS, MCIOB) - demonstrating ability to study at master's level, are also encouraged to apply.

For Distance-Learning study, it is recommended that applicants have at least six months work experience in the built environment sector.

English language requirements

If your first language is not English you will require a minimum academic IELTS score of 6.5 overall with 6.0 in all components.


An equivalent English language qualification acceptable to the University.

Please also see the university's standard English language requirements

English requirements for visas

If you need a student visa to enter the UK you will need to meet the UK Visas and Immigration minimum language requirements as well as the university's requirements. Find out more about English language requirements.

International applications

Preparation courses for International and EU students

We offer a range of courses to help you to meet the entry requirements for this course and also familiarise you with university life. You may also be able to apply for one student visa to cover both courses.

  • Take our Pre-Master's course to help you to meet both the English language and academic entry requirements for your master's course.
  • If you need to improve your English language, we have pre-sessional English language courses available to help you to meet the English language requirements of your chosen master’s.

If you are studying outside the UK, for more details about your specific country entry requirements, translated information, local contacts and programmes within your country, please have a look at our country pages.

How to apply

There is no formal application deadline (recruitment closes when teaching capacity is reached). However, we advise applying in good advance to secure places, and allow sufficient time for applications to be reviewed. 
Applicants should also factor any time needed to meet offer conditions, arrange accommodation, and obtain a UK Tier 4 visa (if applicable).

Distance-Learning study requires additional Faculty preparation - therefore this mode can sometimes close sooner than on-campus study.

Terms and Conditions of Enrolment

When you accept our offer, you agree to the Terms and Conditions of Enrolment. You should therefore read those conditions before accepting the offer.

How this course helps you develop

The course is designed to develop project management skills and knowledge, which are sought after by the industry.

The School runs its own careers fair dedicated to companies which operate in the built environment sector. Guest lectures and field-trips expose the students to a range of different professionals in the field. Sometimes these initial contacts result in career opportunities.

Full-time students have the opportunity to make contact with our distance-learning students, who are in full-time employment in the field. All students are encouraged to become part of our virtual alumni network which is hosted on LinkedIn.


Graduates of the School of the Built Environment have an outstanding employment record. Usually, 100% of the graduates of MSc PMBE are in employment within six months after graduation. 

Local, national and international construction  companies, developers, project management consultancies, house builders, surveyors and housing associations regularly recruit our graduates.

Many of these companies visit the department regularly to meet students for graduate positions. Our graduates are recognised as having an excellent level of communication, presentation and problem-solving skills.

All of our open-learning students are employed full-time by prominent companies in the sector. 

Full-time students find similar employment shortly after graduation. They typically hold (Assistant) Project Manager positions. However, the breadth of knowledge that our students gain gives them the flexibility to function effectively in a number of different roles.

How Brookes supports postgraduate students

We work closely with our International Centre to help students whose first language is not English. International students, who need language support, are registered on appropriate courses during the first semester so that they can develop their academic writing skills. They then take extra classes on dissertation writing in the second semester. 

Continuous assessment and feedback are other means through which we support our students. The PGCert modules in particular are designed so that our students have the opportunity to learn from the feedback that they receive in order to improve their academic performance.

Supporting your learning

From academic advisers and support co-ordinators to specialist subject librarians and other learning support staff, we want to ensure that you get the best out of your studies.

Research highlights

Many of our academic staff are involved in academic research and/or professional/commercial consultancy work. In the recent Research Excellence Framework (REF 2014), our Unit of Assessment (UoA 16) ranked 4th within the University in terms of its Grade Point Average (GPA). We hold the 11th position in terms of Research Impact and Power Rating (GPA x number of full-time equivalent staff submitted) among the 45 institutions that submitted to our unit of assessment.

Areas of research expertise include:

  • Climate change and sustainable construction
  • Carbon foot printing and waste management
  • Collaborative planning and supply network management
  • Procurement, Project and Process management
  • Whole-life cost and value modelling
  • Risk analysis and management
  • Lean construction and applied operations research
  • Sustainable building maintenance
  • Scaffold and pallet rack structures
  • Emerging technologies and innovations for sustainable buildings
  • Social networks and innovation diffusion
  • Information and knowledge management
  • Advanced ICT and applied artificial intelligence
  • Knowledge-based decision support systems
  • Building Information Modelling (BIM)
  • Virtual prototyping

Many members of staff are part of the Oxford Institute of Sustainable Development (OISD). This research and promotional organisation is noted for its work on sustainable technology in buildings and sustainable urban form among many ongoing projects.

Research areas and clusters

Many of the teaching staff are members of Oxford Institute for Sustainable Development's Construction Project Management Research Group.