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Centre for Financial and Management Studies (CeFiMS)

Managing the Transnational Corporation

Unit value:


You will study the Trans-National Corporation (TNC) as a distinct social, cultural and strategic entity. Topics covered include how TNCs resolve the tension between centralisation and decentralisation; the structural alternative available to TNCs and their effect on governance, innovation and performance; and the importance of culture in management.


Study Guide

You will receive a looseleaf binder containing eight units and this is your core learning resource as it directs your study. Each unit has recommended reading either from the core text books or from supplementary readings which are included in the Course Reader.


Ietto-Gillies, G (2012) Transnational Corporations and International Production, Concepts Theories and Effects, Edward Elgar, Cheltenham


You are provided with a range of academic journal articles, extracts from supplementary text books and other reports or material. You will also consider a number of Case Studies. All these comprise the Course Reader which forms an essential part of this course.

Virtual Learning Environment

You will have access to the VLE, which is a web-accessed learning environment. Via the VLE, you can communicate with your assigned academic tutor, administrators and other students on the module using discussion forums. The VLE also provides access to the module Study Guide and assignments, as well as a selection of electronic journals available on the University of London Online Library.

Scope and syllabus

Course Units

Unit 1: The Nature of the Transnational Corporation: An Overview

We begin by reaching a broad definition of the TNC – to capture the span of its global activities – and progress by considering the nature of international production, outlining the main theoretical approaches to explain why firms have become transnational. In doing so, we will consider the nature of the external environment that TNCS face and this will shape their strategic thinking and behaviour.

Unit 2: Major Issues Facing TNCs

By focusing upon the types of organisational architecture that TNCs may adopt we will see how closely related these to the TNCs core strategies, with the degree of discretion afforded to local affiliates being largely dependent upon whether a cost leadership or product differentiation strategy is pursued. We will also consider some of the control mechanisms (and incentives) employed by TNCs to ensure compliance across the organisation with its global strategic objectives and considers the leverage advantages that the TNCs transnational base provides in its relationships with nation states, labour and suppliers.

Unit 3: Differentiation and Integration

Unit 3 aims to critically analyse the importance of the tension between differentiation and integration as a key element of International Human Resource Management (IHRM). In doing so, it will examine several mechanisms by which TNCs can attempt to achieve integration.

Unit 4: Coordination and Control

We next consider how and why processes of management control and coordination vary across TNCs. In particular we explore how management decisions designed to emphasise control and/or coordination might be understood as varying forms or emphases of strategic response as TNCs and their managers seek to adapt to changes in their global business environment.

Unit 5: Innovation

The object of this unit can be understood by the questions it seeks to answer — from a TNC management perspective, how might attention to ‘diversity’ adds value to the innovation management process? What challenges do managers in TNCs routinely face when attempting to manage diversity and innovation in globally displaced (e.g. virtual or multicultural) project teams?

Unit 6: HRM in International Joint Ventures

After taking account trends towards the use of International Joint Ventures (IJVs). We will examine the impact of national culture, and then of organisational culture and evaluate the factors that determine HR practices in IJVs.

Unit 7: Global HRM

In this Unit we will focus upon human resource management as a strategic activity relevant towards helping TNCs achieve global competitiveness and, by extension, ensure their business survival.

Unit 8: Cultures

As an overarching learning objective for this module we undertook to define the Transnational Corporation (TNC) as a distinct social and cultural entity. We also undertook to explore the extent to which business management in TNCs might be distinctive to managing in business organisations generally. And so in this Unit we focus on culture as a factor that serves to distinguish managing in TNCs.

Method of assessment

Students are individually assigned an academic tutor for the duration of the module, with whom you can discuss academic queries at regular intervals during the study session.

You are required to complete two Assignments for this module, which will be marked by your tutor. Assignments are each worth 15% of your total mark. You will be expected to submit your first assignment by the Tuesday of Week 5, and the second assignment at the end of the module, on the Tuesday after Week 8. Assignments are submitted and feedback given online. In addition, queries and problems can be answered through the Virtual Learning Environment.

You will also sit a three-hour examination on a specified date in October, worth 70% of your total mark. An up-to-date timetable of examinations is published on the website in April each year.