Return on Investment from Project Management Education: a case of British Project Management Professional Development Programme


by Mehmood Alam, Andrew Gale and Mike Brown

University of Manchester                             




Expenditure on project management education represents an investment for which there would be the expectation of a beneficial return to the investing organisation. However, corporate sponsorship for project management education programmes appears to have been to date a leap of faith. This paper presents the Return on Value (ROV) concept towards education and training evaluation, derived from a 4 years investigation into the effectiveness of a case study modular distance delivered Project Management Professional Development Programme (PMPDP).

A qualitative comparison of knowledge, application and job performance of PMPDP delegates and graduates with the control group is reported. Findings which are based upon 35 structured interviews explore differences between the knowledge levels, the way it is applied and changes in job performance of the two groups. The majority of these changes are central to individuals leading to tangible benefits for the companies. The extent to which there is a financial return arising from professional development programmes is difficult to assess. The paper draws upon the difficulties in quantifying benefits of such programmes. Suggestions are made how best to measure the effectiveness of CPD programmes.

1.         Introduction

Due to the influence of numerous variables of improved organisational performance, project management education and training has not lent itself readily to evaluation. Alongside, the complexities in establishing clear causal relationships between education, training, and benefits are existing theoretical training evaluation models which do not appear applicable for measuring financial return on investment (Thiry 2004). However, to meet the competitive realities of the global economy, organisations invest heavily in project management (PM) training and professional development without really being sure that the investment is adding value (Daley 2001).

The paper, through briefly explaining the Phillips (2003) Return on Investment (ROI) model, presents the Return on Value (ROV) model which seems to be a more practical approach to evaluate the effectiveness of continuing professional development programmes. Using this approach, the paper investigates the effectiveness of the case study programme – Project Management Professional Development programme (PMPDP) from an industrial perspective.  This is achieved by employing a control group and comparing their knowledge, application and its effects on their job performance with that of the delegates and graduates of the PMPDP. Practical difficulties in measuring the financial return on investment made through the PMPDP are discussed and recommendations made.


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Editor’s note:  Second Editions are previously published papers that have continued relevance in today’s project management world, or which were originally published in conference proceedings or in a language other than English. This paper was originally presented at the 26th IPMA World Congress, Greece, published in the Congress Proceedings and video recorded (http://pmgreece.gr/video.pdf).  Paper  republished here with permission of the author and PM Greece, organizers of the 26th IPMA World Congress

About the Authors

mehmood-alamflag-ukDr Mehmood Alam

Lead author

Dr Mehmood Alam, BEng, MSc, PhD, MAPM, MIMechE, MCMI is an aerospace engineer by profession, Dr Alam is working as a Project Manager for AMEC United Kingdom where he is project managing a portfolio of Civil Nuclear Design and Consultancy projects. Having an undergraduate degree in aerospace engineering, Dr Alam completed with a distinction an MSc in Engineering Project Management and a PhD in the same discipline from The University of Manchester in 2009.  Besides his professional profile, Dr Alam supports The University of Manchester in the role of an Academic Visitor. He has published more than 15 international academic and practitioner based papers in different international journals. Dr Alam holds certification of the APM, CMI and IMechE and is also member of the Editorial Board of International Journal of Information Technology Project Management (IJITPM).  He can be contacted at [email protected].

andrew-galeflag-ukProf Andrew Gale


Andrew Gale, BSc(Hons), PhD, CEng, FICE, MCIOB, MACostE is professor of project management at the University of Manchester, UK.  A graduate of Brunel and BathUniversities, he spent 13 years in industry (UK and Middle East) prior to his academic career. Chartered engineer experienced in collaborating with Russian higher education institutions and industry developing of masters education in project managers. He has significant professional and academic experience in the Middle East and Asia Pacific. He is employed by Rolls-Royce, E.on and Ove Arup & Partners to undertake academic consultancy. He is a member of the Senate of the BritishUniversity in Dubai (BUiD) and leads an academic collaboration with the Faculties of Engineering and Business at BUiD. He is Leader of the Management of Projects Expert Group, comprising 15 academic staff and 40 PhD students, in MACE, and is Programme Director for the MSc Project Management Professional Development Programme (PMPDP), a flexible modular programme led by an industrial consortium comprising: Rolls-Royce, AMEC, Goodrich, EDS, Sellafield and E.on. He is a very experienced university lecturer and has nearly 30 years of experience in undertaking educational needs analysis in the UK and overseas, teaching project management in all its aspects. He is very experienced in designing and delivering courses for mature students and to those for whom English is not their first language. He manages research on people, organisation and culture aspects of project management and has published over 140 articles and papers.   Since joining UMIST (now The University of Manchester) in 1990 he has secured and managed over £2.3 million worth of research and consultancy grants. His research focus is on the application of project management in engineering, infrastructure, construction and aerospace sectors covering design, manufacture, construction and services. Examples of the issues that he is currently investigating include: project complexity, project risk management, design change support tools and project managing carbon footprints. He leads a research partnership with Rolls-Royce Risk Function, investigating the application of risk management strategies and tools in the context of projects, programmes and the enterprise. He is co-vice-chair of the Global Accreditation Centre Board-Project Management Institute in the United States. He is also currently External Examiner at the University of Limerick, Ireland and visiting Professor at Glasgow Caledonian University, Scotland. 

mike-brownflag-ukMike Brown


Mike Brown, BSc(Hons), MSc, CMgr, FCMI ,FAPM is Director of Project and Programme Management and Head of Head of The Centre of Competence for Project and Programme Management Rolls-Royce plc.  Mike holds an MSc in Engineering Construction Project Management gained in 1982 from Cranfield School of Management.  Is a Chartered Manager, Fellow of the Chartered Management Institute and a Fellow of the Association for Project Management. Mike is Honorary Visiting Professor in the School of Mechanical, Aerospace and Civil Engineering, The University of Manchester. He has 35 years experience in the management of pharmaceutical, refinery, petrochemical, power and change projects and programmes for M W Kellogg, C E Lummus, Balfour Beatty and Rolls-Royce. He is also currently the Consortium Programme Director for the Project Management Professional Development Programme at University of Manchester – a modular, distance learning, education programme in the management of projects, in which Rolls-Royce, AMEC, Goodrich and EDS are Consortium members.  He is Chair of the British Standards Institute Committee MS/2, which is responsible for the UK’s Project Management Standard BS6079.  Email mailto:[email protected]