Durham University
Programme and Module Handbook

Postgraduate Programme and Module Handbook 2014-2015 (archived)

Module BUSI49J30: The Ecology of Organisations

Department: Business School (Business)

BUSI49J30: The Ecology of Organisations

Type Tied Level 4 Credits 30 Availability Available in 2014/15 Module Cap
Tied to N1A360 Doctor of Business Administration


  • None


  • None

Excluded Combination of Modules

  • None


  • To develop students’ knowledge and understanding of Ecological approaches to Organisations, the Methods and Models of Organisational Dynamics.
  • To assist students in understanding typical biases and argumentation fallacies, and advice them how to avoid these mistakes.
  • To assist students in understanding the basis of mental models, key intuitions of organisational ecology and make them acquainted with the theory fragments that have been developed so far.
  • To develop students’ understanding of the relationships between theory fragments of organisational ecology and other, competing theories, such as institutional theory or the theory of industrial organisations.


  • Introduction: The Ecological Approach to Organisations Vital Events
  • Organisational Codes. Reproducibility, Inertia, and Identity. Fitness and Mortality
  • Age-dependence of the mortality hazard of organisations.
  • A cognitive theory of organisations: Audiences and producers, Fuzzy Categories
  • Contrast dependence of the vital rates: Founding and disbanding
  • Organisational Learning, and Innovations
  • Propagation Strategies, HR Blueprints
  • Social Dynamics: Models and Methods
  • Theories of organisational Niche
  • Resource Partitioning
  • Inertia of Organisational Niche
  • Contemporary Research Technologies

Learning Outcomes

Subject-specific Knowledge:
  • Have an advanced knowledge and understanding of the context and nature of the world of organisations in contemporary societies, an understanding of organisational dynamics in general, and the models and methods appropriate to study them
  • Have an understanding of the problems and issues in researching the ecology of organisations
  • Have an understanding of typical biases and argumentational fallacies, and knowledge of how to avoid these mistakes
  • Have an understanding of the relationships between theory fragments of organisational ecology and other, competing theories, such as institutional theory or the theory of industrial organisations
Subject-specific Skills:
  • Ability to critically evaluate theories of organisations;
  • Ability to critically evaluate different research practices;
  • Ability to develop appropriate research strategies to address theoretical and practical challenges, in particular: the use of archival data; developing time series; dealing with missing data point issues, and censoring; the ability to use event history analysis to estimate transitions rates, vital rates, Gompertz and Weibul models, etc; theory development, non-monotonic reasoning techniques, theory unification.
Key Skills:
  • Ability to make an initial formulation and articulation of a potential scheme of research
  • Ability to understand and resolve the problems and issues in undertaking doctoral research
  • Ability to formulate, articulate and complete a scheme of research at doctoral level
  • Enhanced personal effectiveness
  • Effective written communication
  • Advanced skills of self-awareness and time management

Modes of Teaching, Learning and Assessment and how these contribute to the learning outcomes of the module

  • The module will be delivered in a workshop format over an intensive three-day teaching block. Workshops will comprise a balanced mix of lecture- and seminar-type delivery combined with small group discussions and other activities as appropriate to the nature of the material.
  • Learning will also occur through tutor-supported, as well as self-support learning groups. There will also be on-line teaching support through a module blog. Finally, guided reading will address key topics. This range of methods will ensure that students will acquire the advanced skills and knowledge to enable them to develop a thorough understanding of this specialist field of study.
  • The summative assessment will comprise a 30-minute oral examination and accompanying written assignment, to prepare students for subsequent stages of the programme – ultimately the doctoral thesis/viva.

Teaching Methods and Learning Hours

Activity Number Frequency Duration Total/Hours
Workshop (see above) 3.5 Daily 8 hours 28
Tutor-supported Learning Group 36
Self-supported Learning group 36
Preparation & Reading 200
Total 300

Summative Assessment

Component: Written assignment Component Weighting: 100%
Element Length / duration Element Weighting Resit Opportunity
Written assignment designed to test students’ knowledge and understanding of the subject matter and their ability to articulate a researchable issue 5,000 words 100% Same

Formative Assessment:

Individual-based presentations and tutor feedback within workshops. Individual 3500-word assignment.

Attendance at all activities marked with this symbol will be monitored. Students who fail to attend these activities, or to complete the summative or formative assessment specified above, will be subject to the procedures defined in the University's General Regulation V, and may be required to leave the University