Human Resource Management (MSc and PGDip)


Gain a prestigious Master's degree in Human Resource Management by distance learning

This distance learning course in Human Resource Management focuses on the social and psychological processes operating in organizations. Drawing on current and classic theory and research, the course enables you to understand organizations and develop ways of improving them.

Redeveloped in 2014, the course features a range of new modules including 'Comparative employment relations', 'Leading and developing people', and 'Human resource strategies'. Your study experience is enriched through online seminars and discussions and a personal tutor.

Course details

Programme You study Study period Cost (2017-18)
MSc in Human Resource Management 8 modules plus Research Project 1 to 5 years £13,175
Postgraduate Diploma in Human Resource Management 8 modules 1 to 5 years £10,975
Individual modules These are an ideal option if you're keen to update your professional knowledge, enhance your career, or sample the programme. If you meet the necessary entrance requirements and later decide to apply for the MSc, you can gain credits for any modules you have completed. The fee per module taken on a stand-alone basis is £1,315 in 2017-18.

Benefit from fully supported online learning 

On your home computer, you can watch the same lectures as those given 'live' to postgraduate students studying on campus at the University of London, accompanied by PowerPoint slides. You are also supported by:

  • tutor-led online seminars for each module.
  • a personal tutor who provides general guidance throughout your studies.
  • extensive, purpose-written study materials.
  • an online facility for submitting essays and mock exams to your tutor.
  • access to world-class online library facilities.
  • optional online Revision Week (held in February/September respectively).

Developed by leading academics at Birkbeck, University of London

The programme is developed by academics within the Department of Organizational Psychology at Birkbeck, University of London. The department is the oldest and largest of its kind in the UK and makes a major contribution to research in the field of behaviour at work. It is a major provider of academic and professional training in organizational psychology (also known as occupational psychology) and career management.

Employment routes

Graduates of this course go on to become trainers, motivators, careers advisers, managers and consultants within large multinational companies, government departments, or in any organization where advanced knowledge of organizational psychology may be useful. 

Study at your own pace

Provided you complete the master's or Postgraduate Diploma within five years, you can study at your own pace. As a guide,

if you wish to complete in the minimum study period, you should be prepared to study 20 hours per week during the academic session. Academic sessions run from September/October until July.

Key dates

Human Resource Management
Application deadline 17 August
Registration deadline 21 September
Course starts 2 October
Examinations take place December, March and July

We also offer an MSc and Postgraduate Diploma in Organizational Psychology.


Structure and syllabus

MSc: 8 modules (8 X 15 credits) plus a Research Project module (60 Credits).
Postgraudate Diploma: 8 modules (8 x 15 credits).

MSc and Postgraduate Diploma

Eight compulsory modules

Research methods [Birkbeck]

Course content

This course covers 4 issues in organizational research. The first issue addresses some basic topics on doing research in organizational settings such as understanding an empirical research model; formulating testing hypotheses; understanding research paradigms, and knowledge on writing a research proposal. The second issue concerns the quantitative methods. The third issue focus on the qualitative research methods. The last issue touches on two other types of research techniques: using experimental design and conduction cross-cultural studies. Overall this course introduces social sciences methods as applied broadly to the study of topics that arise as part of organisational life.


The aims of this module are to:

  • Prepare students with knowledge, skills, and abilities to understand the research findings of empirical studies published in academic journals.
  • Enable students to gain an understanding of the issues on designing and conducting applied research in an organizational or occupational setting.
  • Develop students' ability to critically evaluate empirical studies in terms of methodological issues.
  • Provide student with the research skills to conduct an empirical study for their own MSc.

Learning objectives

At the end of this module students will:

  • Formulate sound research questions.
  • Develop testable research hypotheses.
  • Be familiar with research process.
  • Critically evaluate an empirical study.
  • Understand pros and cons in using quantitative and qualitative methods.
  • Be aware of ethical issues involved in their research projects.
  • Be able to undertake their final research projects.

Recommended reading

  • Schwab, D. (2005). Research methods for organizational studies. Mahwah, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates.
  • Denzin, N. K. & Lincoln, Y. S. (2011). The Sage Handbook of Qualitative Research. Sage: London.
  • Dewberry, C. (2004). Statistical Methods for Organizational Research: Theory and Practice. London: Routledge.
  • Journal articles are listed under each specific topic and also available on-line on Moodle.
Professional development and learning

Course content

Sessions covered may include: Introduction, Who am I, Careers, Professional and ethical practice, Professional relationships, Expectations and challenges, Planning and goal setting.


 The aims of this module are to:

  • Examine own self-development and learning while critically analysing key conceptual frameworks.
  • Review and identify strategies for self-development, to develop an awareness of the issues with evaluating such approaches in their future professional careers.

Learning objectives

At the end of this module students will be able:

  • Critically evaluate the conceptual foundations underpinning current and emerging understandings of professional development and learning.
  • Analyse and review the challenges to effective individual performance in contemporary organizations.
  • Analyse and review the challenges to effective interpersonal relationships in contemporary organizations.
  • Review and identify strategies for self-development of individuals and teams.
  • Evaluate understandings of self-development in relation to contemporary understandings of career development.
  • Demonstrate awareness of the importance of act ethically and professionally with a demonstrated commitment to equality of opportunity and diversity and to continuous personal and professional development.

Recommended reading

  • Cunliffe, A. (2009) A very short, fairly interesting and reasonably cheap book about management, London: Sage.
  • Pedler, M and Burgoyne, J A. (2007) Managers’ Guide to Self-Development, (5th edition) London: McGraw-Hill.
Leading and developing people

Course content

Sessions covered may include: Introduction, HRD and motivation, Leadership and followers, Flexible working and change management, Aims and objectives of HR and HRD functions, Professionalism and corporate social responsibility, HRD contemporary trends and practices.


 The aims of this module are to:

  • Enable students to develop a critical understanding of the strategic concept of human resource development and how it can enhance learning, skills, personal development and performance within the organisation.

Learning objectives

At the end of this module students will be able:

  • Critically review major research studies on contemporary developments in the HRM and HRD fields published in the UK and overseas.
  • Evaluate major theories relating to motivation, commitment and engagement at work and how these are put into practice by organisations.
  • Debate and critically evaluate the characteristics of effective leadership and the methods used to develop leaders in organisations taking into consideration HRDs role in the interaction between power, culture, knowledge and HR /HRD development.
  • Contribute to the promotion of flexible working and effective change management in organisations.
  • Critically discuss the aims and objectives of the HRM and HRD functions in organisations and how these are met in practice.
  • Promote professionalism and an ethical approach to HRM and HRD practice in organisations.
  • Explore future HRD trends and practices and their links to organisational strategic plans.

Recommended reading

  • Rees,G and French, R. (eds) (2010) Leading, managing and developing people.London: Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development.
  • Torrington, D, Hall, L and Taylor,S (2009) Fundamentals of human resource management: managing people at work.Harlow: Financial Times Prentice Hall.
Comparative employment relations

Course content

  • Introduction to comparative theory and method.
  • Markets, institutions and actors.
  • Varieties of capitalism 1: the UK and other LMEs.
  • Varieties of capitalism 2: the CMEs and Japan.
  • The role of the state.
  • Reading week.
  • Employers, employer associations and multi-national corporations.
  • Trade unions.
  • Collective bargaining, works councils and employee participation.
  •  Pay, inequality and unemployment; future trends.


The aims of this module are to:

  • To introduce students to theory and methods in the comparative analysis of employment relations.
  • To provide them with a strong knowledge base on employment relations in a number of countries.
  • To help them think critically about contemporary issues in employment relations.
  • To help them take views about policy issues informed by the latest research.

Learning objectives

On successful completion of this module a student will be expected to be able to:

  • Show their familiarity with issues of theory and method in the comparative analysis of employment relations.
  • Demonstrate knowledge of employment relations in a number of countries.
  • Think critically about contemporary issues in employment relations.
  • Take views about policy issues informed by the latest research.

Recommended reading

  • Bamber, G, Lansbury, R. & Wailes, N. (eds) (2011) International and Comparative Employment Relations, 5th edition, London: Sage.
  • P. Dicken (2011) Global Shift. Mapping the Changing Contours of the World Economy, London: Sage, 6th edition.
Human resource strategies

Course content

Sessions covered may include: Introduction, HR and the organization, Employment life-cycle from entry to exit, Recruitment and Selection, The employment relationship, Performance and reward, HRS contemporary trends and challenges.


 The aims of this module are to:

  • Develop a practical understanding of relevant theory and practice in HRM.
  • Apply this knowledge to a variety of complex situations, recognising the integrated nature of managerial decisions and the challenges of effectively implementing HR practices within a wide variety of organizations.

Learning objectives

At the end of this module students will be able:

  • Identify, describe and apply a range of relevant approaches to deal with key strategic HRM issues.
  • Explain the need to undertake, and the benefits and challenges of, effective human resource planning.
  • Compare and contrast strategic approaches to recruitment, selection, development, rewards and employee exit (including consideration of a range of demographic, social, technological and regulatory trends).
  • Identify effective approaches to developing employee engagement and to ensuring positive employer/employee relations (including consideration of a range of demographic, social, technological and regulatory trends).
  • Analyse HRM practices within their own/case organizations and make suggestions for improvement.
  • Review the respective roles of (and dynamics between) HR practitioners and other key stakeholders (both within and without the organization) in the delivery of HR practices throughout the employment life-cycle.

Recommended reading

  • Boxall P, Purcell J and Wright P (2007) The Oxford Handbook of Human Resource Management, Oxford, Oxford University Press.
  • Torrington D, Hall L, Taylor S and Atkinson, C (2011) Human Resource Management (8th Edition): Harlow: FT/Prentice Hall.
International HRM [Birkbeck]

Course content

This is a central module on the MSc degree programmes in HRM offered by Birkbeck College, Departments of Management and Organisational Psychology (face-to-face version) and Department of Organisational Psychology (distance learning version). It covers the theory and practice of human resource management at the international level, working with other cultures and values, the practice of HRM in multi-national firms, including performance management and training, as well as international regulation and governance.


The aims of this module are:

  • To introduce the theory and practice in the study of international human resource management.
  • To present the varying approaches to human resource management in a number of countries and to understand their similarities and differences.
  • To explore the specific issues involved in working with people from other cultures and countries.
  • To explore the specific issues involved in HRM in multi-national firms, including performance and pay, training and development, and diversity and well-being.

Learning objectives

At the end of this module students will:

  • Understand the theory and practice in the study of international human resource management.
  • Be familiar with the approaches to HRM in a number of countries and to understand their similarities and differences.
  • Have a better grasp of the specific issues involved in working with people from other cultures and countries.
  • Understand the specific issues involved in HRM in multi-national firms, including performance and pay, training and development, and diversity and well-being.

Recommended reading

  • Harzing, A-W and Pinnington, A H (2011) International Human Resource Management, 3rd edition, London: Sage Singer, P (1993).
  • Bamber, G, Lansbury, R. & Wailes, N. (eds) (2011) International and Comparative Employment Relations, 5th edition, London: Sage.
  • Brewster, C, Sparrow, P and Vernon, G (2007) International Human Resource Management (see also more recent edition 2011), London: CIPD.
  • Katz, H and Darbishire, O (2000) Converging Divergences: Worldwide Changes in Employment Systems, Ithaca: ILR Press.
Selection and assessment

Course content

The module is designed to provide an introduction to key techniques for selection and assessment at work, including issues relating to the reliability and validity of these methods. It also covers the nature of job performance, the relationships between cognitive ability and personality and job performance, psychological processes affecting selection decisions, and fairness.


 The aims of this module are to:

  • To describe the context in which personnel selection takes.
  • To consider the nature of human performance in an organizational context, the ways it can be assessed, and issues relating to such assessment.
  • To examine the variables which can be used to predict job performance.
  • To describe and evaluate a variety of psychological processes which are likely to  influence the personnel selection and assessment process.
  • To describe various personnel selection processes and consider their merits and drawbacks.
  • To consider various statistical and other issues relevant to the evaluation of the validity of selection methods.
  • To examine ways of evaluating the fairness of selection methods and to discuss the issue of fairness in selection.

Learning objectives

At the end of this module students will:

  • Explain the context in which personnel selection takes place.
  • Explain different accounts of the nature of job performance, discuss ways in which performance can be assessed in organizations, and ways in which job performance can be measured.
  • Discuss psychological and other variables which may influence job performance.
  • Discuss psychological and other variables which may influence the selection and assessment process.
  • Describe and evaluate a range of common selection practices and techniques.
  • Discuss statistical and other ways of evaluating the validity and reliability of selection methods, and describe evidence relating to the validity a common selection methods.
  • Critically evaluate various statistical and other approaches to the evaluation of the fairness of selection methods.

Recommended reading

  • Gregory, R.J. (2010). Psychological testing: history, principles, and applications (6th ed.). Boston, Mass: Allyn and Bacon.
  • Chamorro-Premuzic, T and Furnham, A. (2010). The Psychology of Personnel Selection. Cambridge University Press Cambridge.
  • Ployhart, R.E., Schneider, B, & Schmitt, N. (2006). Staffing organizations: Contemporary practice and theory (3rd ed.). Mahwah, N.J.: Lawrence Erlbaum.
Leadership and performance management

Course content

Some personal work experience of human resource management and organizational behaviour is extremely useful for this module.

Also, students who have not followed an HRM or organisational behaviour course at undergraduate level will find this module difficult and will have to work hard to familiarise themselves with the literature. This will involve considerable extra reading and study.

This module is concerned with different approaches to managing and leading people at work. The field of Human Resource Management focuses on theory and practice of the management of employment or people in organizations. The field of Leadership focuses largely on the management of soft factors at work from the perspective of leader and followers. In other words, HRM focuses on the more formal aspects of managing employment relationships in general and leadership deals more with the process and interactions between a group of individuals consisting of leaders and followers.


This module aims to:

  • Give you an overview and critically reflect on theoretical, methodological and practical issues surrounding leadership and HRM.
  • Enable you to assess evidence of the relationship between leadership, HRM and individual or organizational outcomes.

Learning objectives

By the end of this module, you should be able to:

  • Outline some of the main approaches to understanding HRM and leadership.
  • Critically evaluate theory, concepts, approaches to HRM and leadership.
  • Apply theories and concepts of HRM and leadership to various applied contexts and critically assess these explain some of the practical issues surrounding HRM and leadership.

PLUS (MSc only)

Research project [MSc only]
  • Assessment: Research Proposal (25%) and a 10,000 word scientific report (75%).

Course content

Throughout the whole of your MSc course you will be learning research methods and working towards your research project. We encourage students to identify research questions at work that interest them early in the course and many students work on projects within their own organizations. This is your opportunity to develop expertise in a specific area of interest and possibly even publish.

You will prepare a research proposal for your MSc project (submission 13 January). Research methods conferences support the development of your proposal.

On the basis of your proposal topic you will be assigned a Project Advisor to give feedback on your proposal and support your research. You will work with them to submit a research paper by 31 August in the year of submission.


The aims of the research methods teaching are to:

  • Enable you to gain an understanding of research methods in occupational psychology and organisational behaviour.
  • Develop your ability to critically appraise research studies and findings.

The aims of the project are to:

  • Provide an opportunity to learn how to conduct research in an organizational or occupational setting.
  • Allow you to develop a deeper level of knowledge on a topic of your choice than is possible on the taught courses in the MSc.
  • Provide the opportunity to confront organizational policy and practice with research and theory.
  • Provide more opportunity to learn and practise research methods.


  • The Research project module is assessed with a Research proposal (25%) and a final Research project (75%). With the exception of the Research project, all modules can be taken as Individual modules.
  • You can register for up to three modules at any one time. The anticipated number of study hours per module is 150 hours.
Study materials

How you study

When you register we will send you an individual study pack containing a range of specially written materials to help you plan your studies and prepare for examinations including:

  • a module handbook (online only) - sample of module handbook [pdf 6pgs 142KB]
  • textbooks for certain modules
  • details of how to access the Virtual Learning Environment (VLE).

You will also receive the following study materials online:

  • Recorded lectures or dedicated audio recordings for each module studied with associated PowerPoint slides.
  • Links to recommended journal articles in the online library.

Virtual Learning Environment (VLE)

The Virtual Learning Environment provides an opportunity, through the Internet, for students to interact through tutor-supported computer conferencing. Using the conferencing system you will discuss topics in tutored groups of normally 12 to 15 students. Computer conferencing for each module takes place at specific times of the year.

Computer conferencing for 2017-2018

Term 1
Sept/Oct to December
Term 2
January to March
Term 3
April to July
Research Methods Human Resource Strategies Leadership and performance management
Professional development and learning International HRM Selection and assessment
Leading and developing people Comparative employment relations The research project

The International Programme is self-taught using the study materials provided. These are fully comprehensive, with the exception of the Research Project, students are not required to purchase or obtain any other materials. All of the necessary reading material to obtain the MSc or Diploma is supplied.

Academic feedback

Students are also able to receive support through academic staff, who mark and give feedback on essay questions and mock examination questions. Although these essays are not compulsory and the marks obtained do not contribute to the overall assessment, students often find it helpful to receive academic feedback on their work to ensure that they are reaching the standard required for the Diploma or MSc. In addition, writing essays can be a useful aid in preparing for examinations.



Fees are subject to annual review. The 2017-2018 fees take effect from 1 May 2017.

Registration fee£ 2,175
Fee per module£ 1,100
Research project (MSc only)£ 2,200
Total MSc£ 13,175
Total Postgraduate Diploma£ 10,975
Total per Individual Module (taken on a stand-alone basis for CPD)£ 1,315
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Disclaimer: the currency conversion tool is provided to you for convenience only and does not constitute an endorsement or approval by the University of London; the exchange rates are provided dynamically via a third-party source, consequently, the University of London International Programmes is not responsible for their accuracy.

Payment options

Fees may be paid in one of two ways:

  • Either, pay the total fee on registration by making a single payment for all the module fees;
  • Or, if you prefer to spread out your payments, pay the fee for each new module you take.

How to pay

All University fees must be paid in pounds sterling (GBP). The University accepts:

  • Western Union - Quick Pay.
  • Credit/debit card (Visa, MasterCard, Maestro, Electron, JCB).
  • Sterling banker's draft/cheque.
  • International money/postal order.

Further details are given in payment methods.

Other costs

In addition to the fees payable to the University, you should also budget for the fee charged by your local examination centre to cover its costs; this fee will vary. Full details will be made available to students in good time.


If you are a UK or EU national and you have lived in England for three years, you could be eligible to apply for a Postgraduate Loan.


Fees are subject to annual revision and typically may be increased by up to 5% per annum. For a full list fees that may be applicable, please see the fee schedule.


All modules, with the exception of Professional Development and Learning and the Research Project are examined by a two-hour unseen written paper. Professional Development and Learning is assessed with written coursework. The Research Project is assessed by a 10,000 word scientific report. The Research Project is available to MSc students only.

You do not have to come to London to take your examinations. Examinations are held in local overseas centres around the world as well as in London. Examinations overseas are arranged mainly through Ministries of Education or the British Council. You will be charged a fee by your local examination centre (this fee will vary). For further information please see the Assessment and examinations section of our website.

If you fail an examination at the first sitting you will be allowed one further attempt. If you fail the examination a second time your registration will cease.


Academic Requirements

A bachelor degree (or an acceptable equivalent) which is considered at least comparable to a UK second class honours degree, from an institution acceptable to the University. Applicants without a degree but with appropriate industrial experience will also be considered on an individual basis.

Please note we accept qualifications from around the world. For further guidance please see our Birkbeck Institute of Education Qualifications for Entrance.

English language

You will meet the English language requirement if you have passed, within the past three years:

  • (IELTS) International English Language Testing System when an overall score of at least 6.5 is achieved with a minimum of 6 in each sub-test.
  • (TOEFL) iBT Test of English as a Foreign Language overall score of 92 or above with at least 22 in both Reading and Writing Skills sub-tests and at least 20 in both Speaking and Listening sub-tests.

Individual Modules

Students applying for Individual Modules should satisfy the entrance requirements for the Postgraduate Diploma or MSc. However, if you do not hold such qualifications, the University may still consider your application but will require evidence of your ability to undertake advanced study.

Computer Requirements

You must have regular access to a computer (or mobile device*) with an internet connection to use the University of London International Programmes website and the Student Portal. These are where your programme’s study resources are located. Through the Student Portal you can register as a student, enter exams and use your programme’s Virtual Learning Environment (VLE). The VLE provides you with electronic learning materials, access to the University of London Online Library, networking opportunities, and other resources.

To get the most from your studies, your computer should have at least the following minimum specification: 

  • a web browser (the latest version of Firefox, Chrome or Internet Explorer). This must accept cookies and have JavaScript enabled
  • screen resolution of 1024 x 768 or greater
  • sufficient bandwidth to download documents of at least 2 MB

and the following applications installed:

  • a word processor that reads Microsoft Word format (.doc)
  • Adobe, or other pdf reader.

Certain courses may have addtional requirements, such as:

  • Microphone and speakers
  • software to manage spreadsheets and run macros
  • software for playing mp3 and mp4 files.

* Full mobile access is not available for all programmes.

Academic leaders

Academic leaders: Birkbeck

Birkbeck was founded in 1823 as the London Mechanics' Institute. Its mandate was to bring higher education to the working classes. From its inception Birkbeck has earned a reputation for excellence in teaching and research. It is unique in its special mission to enable mature students to gain higher education qualifications via part-time study. Consequently, staff are experienced in ensuring a flexible learning environment.

Birkbeck ranks among the top 200 universities in the world, according to data published in the 2010-11 Times Higher Education World University Rankings [external link]. Ann Mroz, editor of the Times Higher Education magazine, commented: "The top 200 universities in the world represent only a tiny fraction of world higher education and any institution that makes it into this table is truly world class."

Birkbeck's Department of Organizational Psychology is the oldest and largest department of its kind in the UK and makes a major contribution to research in the field of behaviour at work. It is one of the principal providers of academic and professional training in occupational psychology within the UK.

The Department, located in the new purpose-built Clore Management Centre in Bloomsbury in London, provides exclusively part-time courses for mature students who benefit from the opportunity of combining work experience with advanced study. As well as providing established and innovative teaching programmes, members of the Department are dedicated to conducting internationally recognised research in the field. The Department enjoys good relationships with industrial research partners and has been successful in attracting UK Research Council grants for innovative research.

Apply online

Academic Inspiration: MSc Human Resource Management

Rob Briner, former Professor of Organizational Psychology at Birkbeck, University of London discusses the impact of the psychological contract at work and the real deal between employer and employee.