Programme structure

The MSc programme in Business Administration at the University of Twente is a one-year programme (60EC). In addition to the three core courses (15EC), the specialization in Purchasing and Supply Management consists of four courses (20EC) and a Master’s thesis (25EC).

Individual students may opt to combine the one-year programme with a two-year programme in order to earn a double degree. Because both partner universities acknowledge specific courses, however, the total duration of the combined programme is two years instead of three years (if taken sequentially).

Course descriptions

The general design of the specialization follows the structure of the purchasing department of a modern firm. Students are introduced to the groups and tasks involved, including the role of the Chief Purchasing Officer (CPO). Our instruction combines lectures with group work and the preparation of academic papers with practice assignments, in addition to novel teaching forms (e.g. serious gaming). In terms of content, we apply the following three guidelines in the design of courses:

  1. Combining academic excellence with practical relevance. Studying at a leading research institution like the University of Twente implies that the courses reflect state-of-the-art research. A strong emphasis on academic thinking will equip you with skills for problem-solving in the future. At the same time, we dedicate considerable attention to ensuring practical application and exposure to current state-of-the-art research and practice. We have selected a combination of academically excellent teachers and those from the world of practice.

  2. Training for a cross-functional business world. More than most other employees, purchasers interact with members from many other business functions in firms, and they are often members of cross-functional teams. Our courses reflect the cross-functional reality of the business world (e.g. by integrating purchasing and supply students with those from the marketing and innovation management profiles).

  3. Purchasers as board members. Companies exist by selling, although they are currently likely to earn profits through such functions as purchasing. Some firms have yet to realize this strategic relationship. The implication is that firms stand to benefit greatly from considering supply issues within their overall strategic positioning. Our Master’s courses follow the approach of having the purchasing function be fully represented on the board of a firm.

The following courses are offered:


This course covers the yearly activities of a purchasing department, particularly with regard to commodity-group management. The class is dedicated to students with no previous exposure to purchasing.


The effective management of the purchasing department is essential to the success of a firm. This course will discuss the contribution that purchasing makes to the competitive advantage of a firm, based on theories of strategic management. Some firms aim to become preferred customers of their strategic suppliers. Success in this positioning subsequently determines the firm’s strategic options. In our vision, the Chief Purchasing Officer should hold a position on the firm’s board. Purchasers should be fully equipped to engage in discussion at the board level. The strategy component of this course contributes to this purpose.

Most larger purchasing departments include a group involved with ‘purchasing systems’. In smaller organizations, one person may hold this responsibility, in addition to introducing and updating purchasing systems. The systems component of this course prepares students to fulfil this task and discusses how purchasing systems can promote the successful deployment of a strategy. It covers IT systems (e.g. e-procurement) and their introduction, also in addition to supply-risk management and purchasing control.


Purchasing and supply management is one of the most international activities of a firm. As a consequence, global sourcing is an important purchasing process that is becoming increasingly important. In many cases, however, global sourcing fails to live up to full potential, as firms lack the organizational expertise and personal skills needed for success in searching for and integrating international suppliers. This module is particularly targeted towards the discussion concerning how to implement global sourcing, based on issues relating to the cross-cultural background of successful international management.

Carrying out purchasing processes requires the creation of a supportive organizational structure. One of the tasks of a department manager is to design the structural and process organization of the unit. In a purchasing department, this is a dedicated task, distinctly different from classical organization. This is particularly true for purchasing departments seeking to pool volumes from different locations or business units within a firm. This course discusses organizational models, process design and various aspects relating to personnel.


In the past 20 years, the process of developing new products has undergone substantial change: few innovations are realized without considerable input from suppliers. This situation has generated a new target and task for purchasing: to contribute to the innovation of a firm by managing early supplier integration within processes of development. This module prepares students for this task, reinforced by the University of Twente’s core competence of combining high technology with a human touch. This module is recommended primarily for students who plan to work in industrial firms. The course serves as an alternative to Public Procurement.


The public sector has evolved into a substantially relevant purchasing agent. While many aspects of purchasing in the public context are similar to industrial purchasing processes, some aspects are distinctively different. For example, the European tendering process and its national derivatives differ from private bidding and negotiation processes. This course is particularly dedicated to students aspiring to work in public institutions. It serves as an alternative to Supply-Chain Management and Innovation.


According to a well-known adage, ‘If you want to sell something, you have to understand the customer. If you want to buy something, you have to understand the seller’. Following this philosophy, our module on industrial marketing provides insight into the typical approaches of B2B marketing. Purchasing students learn how actors on ‘the other side’ (i.e. in marketing) segment the market, prepare their marketing strategies and approach firms.


While it is beneficial to discuss various approaches and models, it is even more beneficial to test them in practice. To this end, we have developed the first serious game to be fully dedicated to purchasing training, and we offer it as a supplement to our Master’s students. The game trains students in the approach of ‘CPO as board member’ by making students responsible for the financial results of a firm and revealing the influence of supply management on the firm’s strategy. Thereafter, participants are trained in a systematic approach to cost savings. Finally, the game exercises the goal of becoming a preferred customer of suppliers and winning the competition with rivals for securing the resources of the best supplier within the supply market.

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