M.A. Olympic Studies

In terms of strategy, teaching on the programme will be student-centred and will privilege the development of student understanding, thinking and skills of critical analysis.

Consequently, the favoured mode of teaching on the programme will be lectures, seminars and workshops. These strategies reflect the aim of the programme to promote the development of transferable skills as well as a commitment to a continuing development of the individual.

The dissertation is a key part of the student’s learning process and facilitates the sustained development and progression of student abilities and skills. Other written assignments will be submitted before the dissertation, enabling students, especially those returning to education, to develop their writing skills and gain feedback on their work, in preparation for the dissertation.

There will be an ongoing monitoring of these learning and teaching strategies to ensure their effectiveness and a commitment to the development of innovative approaches to pedagogy and delivery.

Due to the nature of the programme with its emphasis on participants who are in professional life, the proportion of independent studies is significantly higher than the contact time.   

The on-campus study weeks are spread over two years with 4 terms of study. It consists of six taught modules and the submission of a thesis. The modules are organized on a weekly schedule (6 working days per module). Per term, two single weeks of on-campus studies are compulsory.

The following modules are taught on the programme:

Module 1: Ethics, Values & Olympic Education
  • Start of Module: 1st term, 1st year
  • Responsible University: Pontifícia Universidade Católica do Rio Grande do Sul (PUCRS)
  • Module leader: Prof. Dr. Nelson Todt
  • Assessments: Written Exam (40%) and Essay (60%)
  • ECTS-Credits: 7,5

Pierre de Coubertin’s educational intentions to revive the Olympic Games will be analysed. It will be examined how and why Coubertin aimed at utilising Olympic Sport as a valuable tool to spread moral and social values among the masses. Based on this historical background information emphasis will be given on the further development of the core Olympic values. In addition to this, programmes and projects of Olympic Education which have been and still are conducted at the school level and beyond will be critically evaluated. The module will also discuss contemporary value issues affecting the Olympic movement and their implications for future policy, e.g. the UN´s Sustainable Development Goals and the Olympism 365 initiative, as well as current challenges to the Olympic Movement.

Module 2: Olympic Athletes and Elite Sport in Transition
  • Start of Module: 1st term, 1st year
  • Responsible University: Canterbury University (NZ)
  • Module leader: Prof. Ian Culpan & Dr. Susannah Stevens
  • Assessments: Written Exam (40%) and Essay (60%)
  • ECTS-Credits: 7,5

The module will analyse the role of athletes as key actors of the Olympic Movement and the transformation of their institutional position at and beyond the Olympic Movement. Based on this it will be analysed how the changing profile of elite sport has led to new expectations placed on the athletes as Olympic role models. As the modern world of elite sport has become increasingly complex it is necessary to define and analyse the role of the athlete in this system. This will be done by analysing the mutual interdependence and power relationships between athletes and relevant external reference groups, especially coaches and educationalists. This includes discussions on the holistic wellbeing of the athlete as well as the educational and social responsibility of stakeholders to work towards a successful transition of the athlete into post athletic careers. Discussions on the changing profile of elite sport will also include the rights and responsibilities of athletes, referring to the Olympic Charta (e.g. Rule 50) as well as to the athlete´s social and political voice in connection with youth development and social responsibility (e.g. in connection with the UN´s Sustainable Development Goals and the UNESCO International Charter of Physical Education, Physical Activity and Sport).

Module 3: Research Methodologies in Olympic Studies
  • Start of Module: 2nd term, 1st year
  • Responsible University: Christian-Albrecht-Universität zu Kiel
  • Module leader: Prof. Dr. Jens Flatau
  • Assessments: Five Research Proposals of 500 - 1000 words each (20% each)
  • ECTS-Credits: 7,5
  • Philosophy of social science and paradigms (ontology and epistemology).
  • Philosophy of History (teleological accounts, history as narrative).
  • Techniques in summarising, evaluating and presenting literature reviews (narrative reviews, systematic reviews, meta-analysis and meta-synthesis).
  • Historiography (evaluating authorship, sourcing, interpretation, style, bias and audience).
  • Qualitative techniques and analysis (ethnography, content and document analysis, discourse analysis, interviews / focus groups, life histories, case research).
  • The range and nature of quantitative techniques and analysis (descriptive statistics, correlations, overview of tests, regression, t-tests, ANOVA).
  • Techniques of electronic research.
Module 4: Governance, Policy & Olympic Organisations
  • Start of Module: 2nd term, 1st year
  • Responsible University: German Sport University Cologne
  • Module leader: Prof. Dr. Stephan Wassong
  • Assessments: Written Exam (40%) and Essay (60%)
  • ECTS-Credits: 7,5

The module aims to provide participants with a critical understanding of governance in the Olympic movement at three levels – systemic, organisational and political.

At the systemic level the focus will be on the interests of internal (Olympic family network) and external (e.g. UN, UNESCO WADA) stakeholders and on the strategies and tactics adopted by stakeholders to realise their interests.

At the organisational level the focus will be on key features of good organisational or corporate governance and how these are reflected in the policies and practices of key Olympic bodies, in particular the IOC, IPC, NOCs, IFs and NFs. Such analysis will consider the specificity of sport and the need to adapt corporate governance principles to take account of this specificity.

It is analyzed how reform agendas of the IOC are driven by both the need for internal modernisation and external challenges as well as societal changes.

The range of policies to be considered within this framework may for example include anti-doping, sustainability and climate change, selection of Olympic host cities, selection of sports for inclusion in the Olympic Games and the recognition of federations and sports-related activities (e.g. E-Sports), the role of the Court of Arbitration, the use of Olympic Solidarity as a vehicle for achieving partnership and desired policy outcomes, and current challenges.

Module 5: Olympic Games – Media and Commercialization
  • Start of Module: 3rd term, 2nd year
  • Responsible University: Universitat Autònoma de Barcelona
  • Module leader: Prof. Dr. Emilio Fernandez Pena
  • Assessments: Written Exam (40%) and Essay (60%)
  • ECTS-Credits: 7,5

The key developments of the relationship between the Olympic World and Worlds of Media and Commercialisation will be analysed. Their impact on the sustainable development of the Olympic Movement and Olympic Sports will be critically discussed. Special considerations will be given to the 1980s in which strategic decisions were made to turn to new commercial strategies. Clear turning points were the new financial concept developed for the 1984 Los Angeles Olympic Games and the invention of the TOP-Programme in 1983. The relationship between media sponsors, and Olympic organisations and their values will be a critical focus of this module.

The IOC’s use of its media resources as policy vehicles (including the collection and dissemination of media images through the Information Management Department) will be subject to evaluation. The development of new media and their implications for the Olympic movement and its media policies will also represent a core concern of the module.

Module 6: International Relations and the Olympic Movement
  • Start of Module: 4th term, 2nd year
  • Responsible University: Aarhus University & German Sport University Cologne
  • Module leader: Prof. Jörg Krieger & Prof. Stephan Wassong
  • Assessments: Written Exam (40%) and Essay (60%)
  • ECTS-Credits: 7,5

The module will focus on substantive policy areas / Olympic phenomena with an international relations dimension, and on aspects of IR and globalisation related theory and their contribution to understanding such phenomena.

Substantive topics may include: the challenge of boycotts; terrorism and security issues; soft power and the hosting of the Olympic Games; the role of the Olympic movement in relations between divided nations; sport and the Cold War; sport and the peace movement; the development and political context of the modern Olympic Truce; elite sport development models and ‘policy learning and transfer’ between states; the United Nation´s Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and their application within the Olympic context; the multicultural dimension of Olympism and the Olympic Games as a platform for educational internationalism.

Theoretical perspectives employed through which to address these substantive areas will be drawn from the fields of international relations, political sociology and policy analysis.

  • Start of Module: 4th term, 2nd year
  • Responsible University: German Sport University Cologne
  • Module leader: Prof. Dr. Stephan Wassong
  • Assessments: Thesis (100%)
  • ECTS-Credits: 15

The thesis is undertaken through independent study. It offers students the opportunity to undertake a research project on a topic of their choice but with clear links to the contents taught in the programme. Students will have formal teaching on a range of research skills and strategies which have to be applied in the thesis in particular through the module Research Methodologies in Olympic Studies. During the writing process of the thesis students will be guided by regular individual tutorials from their dissertation supervisor who teaches on the programme. The supervisor will oversee the research proposal for the thesis and will feed back to the students on that draft.

The thesis has to be written in English, however, in consultation with a module leader, it can be written in his/her native language.



Thesis Overview