Durham University
Programme and Module Handbook

Postgraduate Programme and Module Handbook 2019-2020 (archived)

Module BUSI4J420: International Business in Context (FT)

Department: Management and Marketing

BUSI4J420: International Business in Context (FT)

Type Tied Level 4 Credits 20 Availability Available in 2019/20 Module Cap None.
Tied to N1T517
Tied to N1T617


  • None


  • None

Excluded Combination of Modules

  • None


  • To contribute to the overall aims of the programme by developing students' awareness of business and management issues in an international context, and their ability to function effectively in the global business environment.
  • To visit leading international companies and to understand and evaluate the complex nature of different dimensions of their business in one overseas country.
  • To recognise and value the role of national culture and language in the way business operates, and to be able to function in context in a second business language.
  • To provide a sound platform for foreign language acquistion by helping students to understand the core structure of the language through the study of grammar and vocabulary.
  • To compare and contrast organisations on a specific dimension (e.g. strategy, finance, operations, HRM).
  • To develop students' research skills through the production of a detailed case study of leading international organisations, based on desk research prior to the tour and primary research conducted during the tour.


  • The module delivery is divided into five parts:
  • 1) Discussion of international business theoretical frameworks. During the sessions students will discuss the most relevant international business frameworks. These will allow them to understand how internationalised companies operate in international contexts. The frameworks will also allow students to understand the companies that they will visit on their international study tour.
  • 2) The pre-tour preparation inclduing language classes. Students will study their chosen language to an appropriate level (i.e. Mandarin Chinese, German, or Spanish) and the culture of the country they will visit through weekly classes prior to their visit.
  • 3) A week-long international study tour to either China, Germany or Spain (previous tours have been based in Beijing, Mannheim and Barcelona). This will include visits to a range of organisations.
  • 4) Post-tour debriefing. The module leader will conduct a post-tour debrief session to analyse the experience the students had. Each student will submit an individual learning journal (3,000 words) detailing their own reflections on the experience, how studying the international frameworks, the language and the national culture of the country they visited helped them during the tour, what they personally learnt on the tour, and how they will make use of this experience and knowledge (i.e. the 'reflective practitioner' activity). An online debriefing session for all students will be arranged to help them with this task.
  • 5) During the module students will also engage, in groups, in a summatively assessed international management simulation.
  • Subject Content:
  • Introduction to International Business in Context
  • Cultural environment on international business
  • Ethics in international business
  • Theories of international trade and investment
  • Political and legal systems in national environment
  • Global market opportunity assessment
  • Entering and operating in international markets
  • Marketing in the global firm
  • Human resource management and financial management in the global firm
  • Foreign language - studetns are required to study one of several foreign languages that will be offered.

Learning Outcomes

Subject-specific Knowledge:
  • By the end of the module, students should have a critical understanding of:
  • How businesses operate in an overseas context.
  • How to use the existing strategic models to make decisions in companies operating in the international context.
  • Environmental forces that shape companies' decisions in international markets.
  • Effects of their strategic decisions on the company performance.
  • How to develop capabilities for strategic combination of resources in companies and its influence on international performance.
  • How international business frameworks can be used to analyse real organisations options in international contexts.
  • How the language and culture influence how businesses operate.
  • Students should also have an understanding of basic grammar and an appropriate level of vocabulary in a chosen foreign language they have not studied previously, sufficient for tasks requiring a direct exchange of information on familiar topics and activities.
Subject-specific Skills:
  • By the end of the module students should have:
  • Acquired the skills to put organisational theory into practice.
  • Effective group work skills, including collaborative effort in the research, drafting, refinement, and presentation of an assignment, as well as interpersonal sensitivity, which may be across national and/or cultural boundaries.
  • Skills in desk research and primary research associated with the production of case studies.
  • The ability to appreciate the concept of a ‘reflective practitioner’ and to reflect critically on organizations, as a way of learning and developing.
  • The ability to understand and elicit basic relevant and factual information in the target language in simple everyday situations.
  • The ability to describe aspects of their background, immediate environment and matters in areas of immediate need through simple verbal and written means of communication.
  • An understanding of the chosen language that will allow simple, everyday conversations and texts.
Key Skills:
  • Written communication
  • Planning, organising and time management
  • Problem solving and analysis
  • Interpretation of data and computer literacy
  • Team working
  • Interpersonal skills

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

  • This module is taught in blocks, comprising a mix of lecture-style delivery, class debate and guest speakers, and includes an international business simulation and international study tour. All students will be expected to engage in class discussion and debate in order to facilitate the formation of their critical judgments.
  • For the international management simulation, students will work in groups of 5 to 6 within the taught blocks. They will be required to make decisions in an international context regarding entry strategies, market analysis, product, pricing, distribution and communication in relation to the virtual global company they manage. The simulation will be undertaken using a web-based software managed by the module leader. Simulations bring realism and critical thinking into the classroom, allowing students to learn from their own experience, experiment with different management strategies, and put into practice the concepts they have discussed during the module.
  • An introduction to the language and culture of the country students will be visiting will be provided through weekly 2-hour language classes.
  • The summative group simulation exercise is designed to test the students’ theoretical understanding of the subject, and their ability to apply this to organisations. All students will receive the same mark. The individual learning journal will, in addition, test their capacity for ‘reflective practitioner’ insights, and the two language assessments will test their language capability.

Teaching Methods and Learning Hours

Activity Number Frequency Duration Total/Hours
Language Classes 20 2 hours 40
Teaching blocks - combination of lectures, group supervision and tour debrief 10 4 hours 40
Tour and company visits 5 8 hours 40
Reading, project work, preparation (group work and individual), independent language study 80
Total 200

Summative Assessment

Component: Individual Assignment Component Weighting: 40%
Element Length / duration Element Weighting Resit Opportunity
Individual reflective learning journal, based around the company visits and accompanying strategic analysis exercise 3,000 words maximum 100% Same
Component: Group Assignment Component Weighting: 30%
Element Length / duration Element Weighting Resit Opportunity
Group International Business Simulation 1500 words 100% 1500 word individual case study
Component: Language Assessment Component Weighting: 30%
Element Length / duration Element Weighting Resit Opportunity
Written summative composition 350 words 50% same
Individual oral summative assessment 10 minutes 50% same

Formative Assessment:

Students will individually produce a 1,500-word formative assignment based on desk-research one month before the tour, focusing on the companies and countries they will visit. They will receive feedback on this prior to the tour, and it will help in preparing their summative individual learning journal. Regular formative verbal and written assessments in the selected language will be given during the language classes.

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