Questions about our Senior Leader Apprenticeship+ Operations Excellence MSc? Attend our next webinar, where you can find out more and ask questions directly to the course director and teaching team. Click here to register.

This part-time programme meets the requirements of the Level 7 Senior Leader Apprenticeship Standard. Eligible organisations are able to use £14,000 of their Apprenticeship Levy to cover Part I (PgDip) of the programme tuition fee. Part II can be funded by the employer or employee and constitutes a thesis project required for the MSc award. Find out more about our Postgraduate Apprenticeships. Application deadline 13th August.

Our Senior Leader Apprenticeship+ Operations Excellence MSc programme has been designed in two parts. Part I enables students to gain an understanding of both general management functions, including team management, supply chain management, business and manufacturing strategy, alongside specialist and advanced subjects related to effective factories, leading change in operations, technology management, operations assessment and improvement, innovation management. The academic award at the end of Part I is a postgraduate diploma (PgDip).

Apprentices, subject to successful completion of the taught modules in Part I, are eligible to progress onto Part II, the Operations Excellence MSc, which enables them to apply their learning by completing a significant work-based project within their organisation.

The Operations Excellence MSc is a world-leading programme developed by Cranfield through a unique partnership with Rolls-Royce and the Institute for Manufacturing at the University of Cambridge. Designed for industry professionals to fit around demanding careers, the course has been designed to develop the skills to lead change in business.


  • Start dateOctober
  • Duration28 months part-time
  • DeliveryTaught modules 40%, Group project or dissertation 20%, Individual project 40%
  • QualificationMSc, PgDip
  • Study typeExecutive
  • CampusCranfield campus

Who is it for?

For those who recognise the potential for a long and successful career in manufacturing. This course addresses the need for highly trained operations professionals required to transform operations into a world-class business in all sectors of manufacturing operations and is suitable for:

  • Experienced operations professionals who are seeking or are required to take on senior leadership roles within manufacturing or operations organisations.
  • Early and mid-career professionals who want a “real-world” education that they can apply directly to their workplace.
  • Second career professional seeking a change into manufacturing or operations.

Informed by industry

Our courses are designed to meet the training needs of industry and have a strong input from experts in their sector. Students who have excelled have their performances recognised through course awards. The awards are provided by high profile organisations and individuals, and are often sponsored by our industrial partners. Awards are presented on Graduation Day.

Key information

The Operations Excellence course is structured to allow maximum benefit from learning with minimum time away from the working environment.

Benefits for businesses

  • Develop your employee’s marketing and leadership knowledge and skills, enabling them to apply best practice and be more effective within your organisation.
  • Managers gain an understanding of how to develop leadership capabilities in themselves, and others, enabling them to meet your business challenges.
  • Managers gain a contemporary and comprehensive knowledge of core business functions and specialist marketing practice enabling them to show leading-edge insights and knowledge in a variety of management areas.
  • Managers are encouraged to think strategically about business and operations’ role in delivering a competitive advantage to the business, and ensure organisational functions and groups are motivated and aligned to meet objectives.
  • Develops your managers’ self-awareness and confidence to lead and/or operate effectively as a member of a team.

Benefits for individuals

  • Join a programme that provides new insights, knowledge and skills that can shape your future career and prepare you for future senior leader roles.
  • Develop your understanding of best practice in manufacturing operations in order to improve operational effectiveness.
  • Develop operational capabilities that enable the delivery of innovation and performance improvement.
  • Develop a strategic mindset for the execution of growth strategies and achievement of business objectives.
  • Develop the self-awareness and confidence to successfully lead and operate more effectively as part of a team.
  • Apply your newly acquired knowledge, skills and abilities immediately in your workplace.
  • Study with a cohort of talented professionals drawn from a range of industries and backgrounds, building your network and giving insights into international practice.
  • Become a member of our alumni network and join a network of 67,000+ across 169 countries.

How we teach you

Parts I and II are taught through online learning which combines live online teaching, group exercises, on-the-job learning alongside independent self-study.

Off-the-job training
Students will spend 20% of their time on off-the-job training. This is a mandatory component of an apprenticeship that the employer must support. Some of this time will be spent on the taught element of the programme, but may also include practical training, attending meetings outside the normal job function, work shadowing, attending conferences and workshops, and time spent writing assignments.

Support for students
Students will engage regularly with a apprenticeship tutor who will give guidance on how to implement their new knowledge in the workplace. Students will have set sessions with them, but they will also be able to assist with queries along the way.

Our dedicated apprenticeship tutors will support both the student and line manager through the apprenticeship programme. The tutor will meet regularly with the student, to provide guidance and support in the practical application and evidencing of the apprenticeship Knowledge, Skills and Behaviours that are required to be met before the End Point Assessment takes place.

The student will also receive additional support from their line manager. We will work with them to ensure they understand the details of the programme and format for learning as well as the requirements for off-the-job training and monitoring of progress.

Awards on completion

On successful completion of Part I, including End Point Assessment, the student will be awarded:

  • The Level 7 Senior Leader Apprenticeship
  • Postgraduate Diploma in Operations Excellence

On successful completion of Part I and Part II, the student will be awarded:

  • Operations Excellence MSc

Progression route to the Operations Excellence MSc

The MSc has been designed in two parts. The first consists of the 20-month Senior Leader Apprenticeship programme, and the second consists of a thesis (including the evidence-based management module). Part two begins after successful completion of the Apprenticeship End Point Assessment (EPA).

A student undertaking study from start to finish without deferment or suspension, will complete the academic and apprenticeship elements within 28 months.

Fees for MSc progression route

Our Senior Leader Apprenticeship+ MSc programmes are 28-month programmes consisting of two core payments. Part I can be fully funded by the UK Apprenticeship Levy (£14,000). Part II can be funded by employer or employee and is priced at £7,000.

Meet the Course Director

If you are unable to attend one of our University Open Days but would like to discuss the Operations Excellence programme, please get in touch. During your discussion you will have the opportunity to:

  • meet the Course Director
  • discover more about the Operations Excellence course content
  • find out how you can use your company's Apprenticeship Levy towards this Cranfield MSc
  • learn about our manufacturing faculty

We would be happy to arrange a virtual discussion via MS Teams or Zoom.

I look forward to discussing Operations Excellence and how it can benefit you and your business with you soon.

Patrick McLaughlin

Course details

The Cranfield Senior Leader Apprenticeship+ Operations Excellence MSc is delivered in two parts:

  • Part I: 8 modules are studied over a 20-month period. During this time, students build their portfolio of work-based evidence with support from their employer and their Cranfield Apprenticeship Tutor. Students also have peer coaching alongside their studies. This concludes with an End-Point Assessment (EPA), completed over a five-month period, which includes the student’s Strategic Business Proposal, supported by their employer.
  • Part II: Progression to the Operations Excellence MSc over a further eight-month period including research preparation and an organisation-based or relevant research project.

Course delivery

Taught modules 40%, Group project or dissertation 20%, Individual project 40%

More information

On application you will be enrolled onto Part I of the programme and begin your studies. Throughout the course you will have regular communication with your Course Director to discuss your progression choices on to Part II and full completion of the Senior Leader Apprenticeship+ Operations Excellence MSc.

Course modules

Compulsory modules
All the modules in the following list need to be taken as part of this course.

Effective Factories

    To provide you with the knowledge of and skills needed to design and improve effective manufacturing systems.
    Principles of Manufacturing & Factories
    Design of layouts
    Human centred factory design 
    Cellular manufacturing
    Factory dynamics and modelling variability
    Capacity, demand and load; identifying key capacity determinant; order-size mix problem; coping with changes in demand.
    Scheduling rules; scheduling and nested set-ups.
    Role of inventory; dependent and independent demand; economic order quantity; uncertain demand; inventory management systems and measures.
    Maintenance management
    Industry 4.0

Intended learning outcomes

On successful completion of this module you will be able to:
1. Differentiate the applicability of different layout types applicable in manufacturing business.
2. Assess how production layout and system design influences productivity.
3. Appraise the effectiveness of cellular configurations.
4. Evaluate maintenance strategies for production systems.
5. Evaluate the impact of Industry 4.0 on factory layout, automation and systems, to provide a visual factory and a flexible manufacturing facility

Business and Manufacturing Strategy


    To introduce the context of manufacturing strategy and to provide you with the frameworks and methodologies used to build and assess manufacturing strategies, and to provide critical skills to analyse and determine when to apply these frameworks.

    • Strategy frameworks (Porter, Mintzberg, Boston Consulting Group, Skinner, Hayes & Wheelwright, Platts, etc)
    • Operations Strategy – Types (Corporate, business and function), levels of Strategy, Operations leader role.
    • Strategy charting
    • FIT model – Aligning Operations Capabilities to Market requirements
    • Understanding Competitive criteria
    • Understanding Competitive advantage and the types
    • Capabilities – Capability architecture, Capability to competitive advantage, Improving Capabilities
    • Resource analysis and coordination
    • Performance measurement process (Balanced Scorecard, etc)
    • Strategy Implementation – Hoshin Kanri, etc
    • New and developing frameworks and research including servitisation and resource and
    • Competency based strategy
    • Case studies
Intended learning outcomes

On successful completion of this module you will be able to:
1. Differentiate between strategy frameworks and tools to use in developing business and manufacturing strategies.
2. Critically appraise the coherence and appropriateness of corporate, business and manufacturing strategies.
3. Evaluate the impact of a proposed manufacturing strategy upon business performance.

Team Management

    To provide you with knowledge and awareness of models and techniques required to assess, understand and work with the skills and competencies of different team roles, personality types, management styles and cultural differences in the context of organisational team-working.
    • Individual/personal motivations, styles and team contributions
    • Interpersonal dynamics, tensions & synergies
    • The personal nature of team leadership
    • The characteristics and management of high performing teams
    • Human and cultural diversity
    • Emotional intelligence in the management of self and others
    • Key frameworks for team assessment, building and development

Intended learning outcomes On successful completion of this module you will be able to:
1. Assess the inherent difficulty in maintaining productive inter-relationships between different functional responsibilities within an organization, and how team management impacts upon organisational performance.
2. Appraise the dynamic and multi-dimensional nature of teamworking and of team management.
3. Evaluate different personality types, leadership styles, management approaches, team roles and cultures.
4. Evaluate methods for recognizing and resolving tensions, disagreements and conflicts within teams and between individual team members.

Innovation Management

    To develop your understanding and competencies in the enablers of effective innovation management and in appropriate design and implementation actions for development of improved innovation capabilities.

    The content of this module is based around innovation and its application in a business to improve performance. A lecture approach and case evaluations will be used to present theory and practice, with emphasis on pragmatic techniques to evaluate and improve innovation capabilities. Cases will be used to explore interaction between the taught concepts and to develop greater understanding of how innovation capabilities can be improved. Specific areas that will be covered include:

    • Innovation impact on business performance
    • Innovation types
    • The role of teamwork and communication in innovation
    • Innovation enablers and inhibitors
    • Practicalities of developing an innovation capability
    • Change management strategies to improve innovation capabilities
    • Performance measurement of innovation performance and innovation capability

Intended learning outcomes

On successful completion of this module you will be able to:

1. Evaluate the concept of innovation, the role of innovation and its use to improve new business performance.
2. Assess the challenges organisations face when implementing improved innovation capabilities.
3. Explicate the enablers and inhibitors for different innovation types.
4. Assess innovation capability and propensity within an organisation.
5. Develop appropriate interventions to improve innovation capabilities within an organization.

Technology Management


    To provide you with knowledge of the principles and practices of Technology Management as a route to create competitive advantage within Operations.

    • Technology in business context
    • Technology management processes
    • Technology strategy and planning (including road mapping, foresight, scenarios, etc)
    • IPR management
    • Technology management tools and toolkits
    • Strategies for visual communication
    • Technology insertion
    • Make versus Buy / managing partnerships / open innovation
    • Technology management in application

Intended learning outcomes

On successful completion of this module you will be able to:
1. Assess the broad issues that link technology, business and industry evolution.
2. Appraise pipelines of sources of technology in terms of managing sustainable business growth.
3. Assess how internal and external resources/capabilities can be balanced to achieve technology strategy objectives.
4. Evaluate how technology is managed within the student’s company.

Supply Chain Management

    To provide you with an understanding of the fundamental principles of contemporary supply chain management, with an emphasis on effective operations practice.

    · Principles of supply chain management for competitive advantage

    · Management of supplier relationships

    · Introduction to agile and segmented supply chains

    · Management of global supply chains

    · Supply chain resilience and risk management

    · Supply chain management tools, modelling approaches and SC analytics

Intended learning outcomes

On successful completion of this module you will be able to:

1. Appraise the basic principles underlying supply chain management and the potential impact on an organisations competitive position and its performance

2. Assess the different characteristics of agile supply chains, identify pre-conditions to agility and propose capabilities and practices to improve supply chain agility

3. Assess key aspects of a customer responsive supply chain strategy within defined service and demand profiles

4. Explore the role of big data in managing the supply chain

5. Evaluate evolving supply relationships and explain the potential roles of co-ordination and collaboration

Operations Assessment and Improvement

    To provide you with knowledge and techniques needed for the assessment and improvement of operations systems.

    This module is based on how performance of an operations function can be evaluated and how performance improvement actions can be identified and developed into an improvement plan.
    A lecture approach and case evaluations will be used to present theory and practice, with emphasis on pragmatic techniques to evaluate and improve performance. Cases will be used to explore interaction between the taught concepts and to develop greater understanding of how operations performance can be improved. Specific areas that will be covered include:
    • Objective, principles, terminology and systems of management accounting.
    • Inter-relationships between functional responsibilities within a company
    • Performance measurement
    • Evaluation of potential improvement actions
    • Developing an improvement plan

Intended learning outcomes On successful completion of this module you will be able to:
1. Describe the principles, objectives, application and limitations of management accounting.
2. Demonstrate knowledge of tools and techniques to assess and measure operations performance.
3. Evaluate operations performance within student’s own organization
4. Develop appropriate improvement interventions for application within student’s own organization

Leading Change in Operations

    To develop your understanding of selected models of change management along with the skills, competencies and approaches required to achieve successful change leadership.

    Specific areas that will be covered include:

    • Systemic, people and organisational change
    • Leadership appropriate for establishing and sustaining change
    • Different approaches to achieving change
    • Cultural aspects to initiating and sustaining change
    • Psychology of change
    • Leadership style for the student
    • Emotional engagement of people involved with the change
    • Gauging effectiveness of the change

    Ensuring sustainability of the change implemented

Intended learning outcomes On successful completion of this module you will be able to:
1. Evaluate the different aspects and issues likely to be encountered in leading change in processes, systems and organizations
2. Appraise strategies and approaches for managing change, including the impact of any change
3. Design and formulate an appropriate change programme
4. Evaluate the potential sources of resistance to the change programme and formulate strategies which can be used to successfully overcome them 
5. Evaluate the effectiveness of change and estimate the likely change programme trajectory


Keeping our courses up-to-date and current requires constant innovation and change. The modules we offer reflect the needs of business and industry and the research interests of our staff and, as a result, may change or be withdrawn due to research developments, legislation changes or for a variety of other reasons. Changes may also be designed to improve the student learning experience or to respond to feedback from students, external examiners, accreditation bodies and industrial advisory panels.

To give you a taster, we have listed the compulsory and elective (where applicable) modules which are currently affiliated with this course. All modules are indicative only, and may be subject to change for your year of entry.

Teaching team

You will be taught by a wide range of subject specialists here and from outside the University who draw on their research and industrial experience to provide stimulating and relevant input to your learning experience. Many of the lecturers have worked in industry themselves, some at Managing Director level, and have actual experience of leading productivity improvements. Guest lecturers include speakers from Rolls-Royce plc, Primary People, Alan Roberson Associates and Nissan. Excellent staff to student ratios leads to focused discussion about real-world issues in implementing operations excellence. The Course Director and Admissions Tutor for this programme is Patrick McLaughlin.

Your career

The Senior Leader Apprenticeship+ Operations Excellence MSc will enable you to develop your knowledge, skills and abilities while applying what you learn directly in your workplace. The programme will support your career progression, preparing you to successfully carry out senior leadership roles in the future.

The course will support you to:

  • Discover and develop your leadership and team-working style
  • Learn the techniques of effective team leadership
  • Develop leadership competencies that support delivering performance improvement
  • Create and develop high performance teams capable of delivering operational improvement
  • Develop and lead change and prepare the business to face future operational challenges.

Our Career services team offer: individual career consultations, speaker events, alumni networking, networking workshop, personal and executive career coaching, leadership assessment centre, and more practical skills-based workshops on writing CVs and cover letters, and interview skills.

How to apply

Next steps

If you would like to find out more general information about the course and your eligibility to attend the programme, please arrange a one-to-one discussion with the course director before you make a formal application.

Course director: Patrick McLaughlin:

For employer related enquiries, fees and funding, and the expression of interest/application process, please contact our Apprenticeships Team:

Employers: please complete our Expression of Interest form.

Prospective students: please ask your employer to submit an Expression of Interest form to indicate their willingness to sponsor you.

Applications for apprenticeship routes have to come via the Expression of Interest form. Apprenticeship applications received via the application button on the non-apprenticeship pages will not be processed.

Expression of Interest form