Postgraduate taught 

Corporate Governance & Accountability MSc

Governing Risk and Uncertainty ACCFIN5059

  • Academic Session: 2023-24
  • School: Adam Smith Business School
  • Credits: 20
  • Level: Level 5 (SCQF level 11)
  • Typically Offered: Semester 2
  • Available to Visiting Students: No

Short Description

This course seeks to develop an understanding of the ethical dimensions of 'risk' in its various manifestations and the manner in which the actions of organizations, professional 'actors' and the state can contribute both directly and indirectly to the generation of harm. The module also considers the impacts that intervention strategies can have on the generation of hazards.


The course is delivered by means of three-hour lecture/seminars per week during semester 2, giving a total of approximately 30 contact hours.

Excluded Courses





■ Group assignment (50%) - 2,500 words

■ Individual assignment (50%) - 2,500 words

Main Assessment In: April/May

Course Aims

■ Introduce risk as a construct and highlight the importance of ethical elements in both the 'identification', 'estimation', and 'acceptability' processes around hazards across a range of activities. 

■ Highlight the ethical components of the costs and benefits associated with risk bearing activities - including inter-generational aspects of the creation of harm.

■ Show how risk generation and the behaviours of institutions are linked through the actions of decision makers, the strategies that are employed by the organization, and the embedding of errors within these processes.

■ Consider the role of various governance factors (e.g., legal systems, ownership patterns, cultures, economic and institutional development) within the configuration of risk and the impact that these elements can have on the emergence of differing forms of hazard.

■ Explore and analyse the relationships between institutional strategies and ethics in relation to both organizations and governments.

■ Consider the post-event rationalization processes around 'legitimation' and the manner in which risks are deemed to be acceptable before they are realized and how this contributes to the 'crisis of legitimation' after the event.

■ Illustrate the limitations of regulation in a globalized economy and the need for a shift in the corporate mindset around 'ethical' behaviours.

■ Highlight the unethical behaviours of institutions - especially in the context of policy and strategies - and consider the nature and difficulties associated with 'regulating' such behaviours. 

■ build confidence, through critical consideration of cases and issues, that will help students take theoretical knowledge, supported by case analysis, and put it into action in understanding and decision-making on risk, hazard and uncertainty contexts

Intended Learning Outcomes of Course

1. Critically evaluate between the nature of risk and uncertainty as key constructs that are used to frame the governance of various hazards and processes of harm.

2. Critically analyse the impact of feedback systems and other factors (which might include e.g., legal systems, regulators, governance codes, capital markets, and ownership patterns) on the ever-changing conceptions and structures of risk and uncertainty, and the development of governance arrangements to mitigate hazards, risks and uncertainties.

3. Critically evaluate the impact of the governance on the generation of hazards and the 'legitimation' processes in relation to realized and hidden risks and uncertainties.

4. Critically appraise the impact of governance in determining 'acceptable behaviour' including biases and the way key institutions legitimize' the notion of 'acceptable levels of risk'.

5. Critically evaluate academic research, international agendas and international standards in relation to governing risk and uncertainty.

6. Work in groups to critically evaluate recent articles with reference to principles and practices learnt on the course.

Minimum Requirement for Award of Credits

Students must submit at least 75% by weight of the components (including examinations) of the course's summative assessment.