AC411      Half Unit
Accounting, Strategy and Control

This information is for the 2018/19 session.

Teacher responsible

Prof Wim Van der Stede OLD 2.18, supported by various professors who teach blocks of materials on the course.


This course is available on the CEMS Exchange, Global MSc in Management, Global MSc in Management (CEMS MiM), Global MSc in Management (MBA Exchange), MBA Exchange, MPhil/PhD in Accounting, MSc in Accounting and Finance, MSc in Accounting, Organisations and Institutions and MSc in Law and Accounting. This course is available with permission as an outside option to students on other programmes where regulations permit.

Other students may be admitted only with the agreement, in writing, of the MSc Programme Director, if they have sufficient relevant background knowledge.

The course is capped to three sections of around 55 students; ie 165 total.

Enrolment on this course is constrained by section size and the number of sessions available. Students are admitted on the course on a first-come-first-served basis. If the course is over-subscribed, students on the waiting list will continue to be admitted on a first-come-first-served basis as places become available, but MSc students on the Accounting programmes will only then be given priority although cannot be guaranteed a place if no places become available. Therefore, to avoid frustration and possibly being unable to take the course, students wishing to reduce the risk of non-admittance on the course should prioritise their courses and register early for their preferred, “must have” courses. Late registration or changes to earlier course choices may be unsuccessful.

Course content

This course provides an advanced overview of current theoretical and practical developments in the area of organisational control, which is an essential function of management to ensure that the organisation's objectives and strategies are carried out effectively. Good management control increases the probability of organisational success.

Specifically, the course discusses what it means to have an organisation be in control, what alternatives managers have for ensuring good control, and how managers should choose from among various control system alternatives. Then the course turns to focusing on each of the elements of financial control systems, which provide the dominant form of control in the vast majority of decentralised organisations. These elements include financial target setting, performance measurement and evaluation and the assignment of various forms of organisational rewards, such as bonuses and promotions. The latter part of the course extends these key notions of management control from the intra-organisational level to the inter-organisational level, highlighting some of the difficulties involved in organisational control of new, fluid, inter-organisational settings and configurations, such as joint-ventures and various types of alliances, often involving global alliance partners.

The course will cover the following topics:

•  Strategy and the design of management control systems, including strategic and operational plans and budgets

• Management control alternatives, including results controls, and organisational architecture

• Decision rights and results accountability in decentralised organisations

• Incentive compensation systems, including short-term and long-term incentive plans

• Performance measurement and evaluation, including objective and subjective performance evaluations

• Management control in inter-organisational relationships, including joint-ventures

As a final note, the discipline of management accounting is often partitioned into (1) management control systems and (2) cost and management accounting systems, where the latter is the key focus of another course, AC415. AC411 can, but is not required, to be taken with AC415. Students can take either AC411 or AC415, or both.


30 hours of seminars in the MT.

Note: Week 1 of MT is reserved for an intensive pre-session course for MSc Accounting and Finance students; therefore, main courses, including AC411, start in Week 2 of Michaelmas term; hence, teaching is during 10 weeks from Week 2 through 11.

Specifically, AC411 consists of 10 principal topics delivered in two sessions of 1.5 hours each week. The first session each week typically provides an introduction, conceptual analysis, and discussion of the key facets of the topic. The second session offers a further discussion and expansion of the issues through case study analysis and real-world applications. Each session is conducted in groups of about 55 students. The case study discussions permit the exploration of management control issues in a broad range of settings. The case method of instruction requires good advance preparation by the students, and every person should be ready to contribute to the case discussion when called upon. Students should expect to be "cold called" and cannot count on being able to hide behind classmates who volunteer to participate. Active participation is also expected and encouraged during non-case sessions. Blocks of sessions are taught by various notable professors in the relevant topic areas and the subject of management controls generally.

Formative coursework

Students are expected to come to each session prepared having done the assigned readings and having prepared the assigned cases.

Indicative reading

A detailed reading list is laid out for each session on the syllabus.

Reference textbook: Merchant & Van der Stede, Management Control Systems: Performance Measurement, Evaluation and Incentives, 4e (Prentice Hall, 2017).


Exam (70%, duration: 2 hours) in the January exam period.
Essay (15%) in the MT.
Project (15%) in January.

Students are required to complete two essays during term-time (totalling 15% of the mark for the course), a group project, due in January (15%), and a final exam in LT week 0 in early January 2019 (70%),

Student performance results

(2014/15 - 2016/17 combined)

Classification % of students
Distinction 21.1
Merit 64
Pass 14.7
Fail 0.2

Key facts

Department: Accounting

Total students 2017/18: 125

Average class size 2017/18: 44

Controlled access 2017/18: No

Value: Half Unit

Guidelines for interpreting course guide information

Personal development skills

  • Leadership
  • Self-management
  • Team working
  • Problem solving
  • Communication
  • Application of numeracy skills
  • Commercial awareness
  • Specialist skills

Course survey results

(2014/15 - 2016/17 combined)

1 = "best" score, 5 = "worst" score

The scores below are average responses.

Response rate: 79%



Reading list (Q2.1)


Materials (Q2.3)


Course satisfied (Q2.4)


Integration (Q2.6)


Contact (Q2.7)


Feedback (Q2.8)


Recommend (Q2.9)