Some graduates may be seeking a quality postgraduate course that will prepare them for a leadership position, but do not have the required amount of work or academic experience to enrol in an MBA programme. Thankfully there are full time and part time courses in fourth level providers around Ireland that offer an alternative route to managerial-level knowledge and proficiency.
One-year, full time conversion courses such as the MSc in Business Management provided by the DCU Business School, and the MA in Business Management in UL’s Kemmy Business School, provide non-business graduates with a good understanding of core business topics such as economics, finance, marketing, human resource management, etc.
The nature of these courses ensures a wide variety of applicants. Students of UL’s MA in Business Management for example include arts and engineering graduates, Irish and international students, the recently graduated and those returning to education from careers in construction, farming and bar management. ‘A lot of students with for example, an Arts or Public Administration degree,’ explains Course Director Elaine Berkery, ‘see this programme as a stepping stone into organisations they feel they cannot get into on the back of their existing primary degree alone.’
Dr Theo Lynn of DCU Business School believes students that combine an undergraduate specialism with a postgraduate business qualification are greatly increasing their career prospects. ’Every student has a multidisciplinary background and so are more likely to hit the ground running as a manager in a business which operates in a specific domain such as science, engineering, IT, etc,’ he says.
These courses are focused primarily on preparing students for the workplace. The MSc in Business Management for instance, ‘does not rely on providing an understanding of the theory, concepts and methods pertaining to management; but also the wider and higher level skills used to deal with unstable and uncertain environments. These include diagnostic, evaluation and problem solving, creativity and innovation, leadership, communication and collaboration skills, and above all the ability to learn effectively.’ Furthermore, DCU students engage in ‘real-life consulting projects’ and case studies.
According to Elaine Berkery, a research project carried out by students of the MA in Business Management enables them to combine and utilise their full range of skills. So for example, computing undergraduates typically carry out business management research in the context of the IT sector.
This, and other projects such as an online business simulation, provides students with the opportunity to learn and work together in groups. ‘What really comes out,’ she says, ‘is that there is so many different people from different backgrounds, and that leads to a huge richness of discussion in the classroom. Because an engineer will look at a problem in a different way to someone who has done, say, Arts or Nursing.’
Opportunities to obtain a postgraduate qualification in management also exist for non-business graduates seeking a part time or distance-learning format. The UCD Michael Smurfit Graduate Business School offer a Master in Management through blended learning, a mixture of e-learning and 16 weekends of campus attendance spread over a period of two years.
The Communications & Management Institute (CMI) in Dublin provides a one-year, part time Graduate Diploma in Management Studies. Instilling a modern and successful management style in students is a key goal, according to John O’Toole, Director of CMI. Referring to Douglas McGregor’s renowned XY theory of management, he says students are encouraged to recognise and avoid the old “X” style of management, which is dictatorial and authoritarian; and to embrace the “Y” approach, which is inclusive and encourages feedback and creativity.
The Graduate Diploma in Management Studies, which is not part of the National Framework of Qualifications but is accredited by the Institute of Commercial Management (ICM) and recognised worldwide, seeks to produce graduates who are knowledgeable about every aspect of a company’s activities. ‘So after the financial management module for instance,’ explains John O’Toole, ‘they’re able to converse with an accountant or finance manager about the financial statement, and interpreting profits, losses, expenses, etc.’
But why should an employer invest in an employee’s management education during these extremely trying times? ‘It’s probably more important now than ever that the right people with the right qualifications are in place,’ says O’Toole. ‘The only way to get out of a recession is to have qualified managers in place; people who can make decisions, whether that involves reducing costs or coming up with new ways to break into international and emerging markets.’
He also cites as another motivating factor the project carried out by every student on their sponsoring organisation, analysing the direction it is taking, and how it might overcome the challenges that confront it. Such is the quality of work produced by CMI’s students that many have received pay increases and promotions, while their findings have been implemented my major players in the pharmaceutical, medical device, and IT sectors. John O’Toole asserts that research work of similar quality sourced from a consultant would cost ‘a couple of thousand euro’.
Numerous taught postgraduate programmes also cater for the more advanced learning needs of business graduates who are pursuing roles in senior management. Courses such as NUI Galway’s MSc in Corporate Strategy and People Management, and the MBS in Strategic Management and Planning in UCD Michael Smurfit Graduate Business School equip students with the skills to develop a deep understanding of organisational strategy, how they deal with change and develop successfully in today’s challenging environment.
For Ms Phil Hanlon, Course Coordinator of DIT’s MSc in Strategic Management (available in full and part time formats), it’s of utmost importance that students realise the complexity of organisations and the decisions they need to take. The holistic approach taken by students to last year’s Integrative Case Study is an indication of this. Groups of students were required to investigate and present upon three topics: the airline industry as a whole; a single airline operator – its challenges, use of technology, etc; and the finance of the operator.
No lectures are involved in this project, just the obtaining and sorting of huge amounts of information. This is good preparation for the executive role, says Ms Hanlon, as they must regularly sift through volumes of information of varying quality before making a decision.
Poor and unethical strategic decision-making based upon short-term goals has played a big role in the current economic chaos, she says, so students of the MSc in Strategic Management are encouraged to examine the wider, long-term implications of business decisions for all stakeholders and society in general. The use of ‘non-traditional’ (i.e. non-American/British) texts and case studies helps foster in students this refreshing and much-needed change in mindset.
There is no questioning the rights and wrongs of one particular decision however, and that is deciding to further your skills, knowledge and career prospects with a postgraduate management course.