AC412      Half Unit
Accountability, Organisations and Risk Management

This information is for the 2024/25 session.

Teacher responsible

Dr Tommaso Palermo, MAR 3.23 and Dr Alexa Scherf, MAR 3.32.


This course is compulsory on the MSc in Accounting, Organisations and Institutions. 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, MSc in Accounting and Finance, MSc in Economy and Society, MSc in Public Administration and Government (LSE and Peking University) and MSc in Public Policy and Administration. 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 (Accounting) Programme Director.

Course content

The overall purpose of the course is to provide students with a critical appreciation of the management of risk as an organisational and social process. This course is recommended for students who wish to develop the critical-thinking skills to make strategic decisions about risks, uncertainty and corporate governance, especially those targeting roles in consulting, business management or regulatory agencies. It is equally applicable to develop the skills needed for further academic studies in different areas of the social sciences such as accounting, management, sociology, public administration.

The course is necessarily cross-disciplinary, drawing on scholarship within accounting, organisational sociology and regulation studies. The course combines an illustration of key theories and academic research as well as practical examples and cases for analysis. The course content is updated yearly to reflect topics of contemporary relevance. Recent examples are risk culture in the financial sector, safety culture in aviation, cybersecurity risks and responses to pandemic crisis.

The course is divided in two parts. The first explores the intersections of risk and corporate governance, by focusing on the risks that arise at the top management and board of directors level, including risks of misconduct, gatekeeper failure, performance-insensitive executive pay and non-diverse board composition. The second part also deals with senior management and organisational leaders, but this time by looking at their responsibilities for maintaining systems and processes that help to anticipate and/or respond to key organisational risks. The emphasis of these two parts of the course taken together is on the role of senior managers and directors both as potential sources of risk to various stakeholders and as significant consumers of risk information.


30 hours of seminars in the WT.

This course has a reading week in Week 6 of WT.

Formative coursework

Two pieces of written work will be assessed during the term. The grades for this work will not count towards the overall course assessment.

Indicative reading

No single book covers the entire course. Indicative readings include:

  • • Bebchuk & Fried, Pay Without Performance (Harvard, 2004);

    • Coffee, Gatekeepers: The Professions and Corporate Governance (Oxford, 2006);

    • Power, Organized Uncertainty: Designing a World of Risk Management (Oxford, 2007);

    • Power, Riskwork: Essays on the Organizational Life of Risk Management, (Oxford, 2016);

    • Vaughan, The Challenger Launch Decision, (Chicago, 1997);

    • Robison, Flying Blind: The 737 MAX Tragedy and the Fall of Boeing, (Penguin books, 2021);

    • Weick & Sutcliffe, Managing the Unexpected: Assuring High Performance in an Age of Complexity (Jossey-Bass, 2007).


Exam (100%, duration: 2 hours) in the spring exam period.

Student performance results

(2020/21 - 2022/23 combined)

Classification % of students
Distinction 32.1
Merit 46.6
Pass 17.9
Fail 3.4

Key facts

Department: Accounting

Total students 2023/24: 78

Average class size 2023/24: 39

Controlled access 2023/24: No

Value: Half Unit

Guidelines for interpreting course guide information

Course selection videos

Some departments have produced short videos to introduce their courses. Please refer to the course selection videos index page for further information.

Personal development skills

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