In a period of economic gloom such as the one we are currently experiencing, the importance of human resource management becomes even more apparent. With many jobs and businesses under threat, organisations must keep a firm focus on motivating, developing and maintaining good relations with their employees.
Dr Sarah MacCurtain, Course Director of the Master of Business Studies (MBS) course in Human Resource Management at the University of Limerick (UL), says there has been huge demand to take part in the programme this year. She explains further: ‘I think there are many reasons for that. I think education – no matter what you’re going back to study in – many people are realising that now is the time to do it. But there is also a realisation, I think, in the current climate, that HR is more important than ever... The management of people in a recession is hugely important.’
As well as affecting the demand for places on the UL course, the current economic situation also has an impact on the actual content of the programme.
‘There’s a module that is purely seminar-based, and that looks at the current trends in HR. So that is constantly updated to reflect what’s important at the moment – the current recession, dealing with organisations, downsizing, those kinds of things,’ she continues. ‘Even things like bullying, because it’s been found that bullying does increase in a more competitive environment. In times of recession you’ll find sometimes there is more individualistic behaviour, increased competition, and also increased bullying.’
‘We have a module on managing change, which I think, particularly now, is hugely important. It takes in managing change in terms of not just strategic change, but looking at it from the emotional, cognitive and behavioural angles as well.’
Margaret Heffernan, Programme Chair of the full-time MBS in Human Resource Management in DCU, also says that HRM is ‘now focussing a lot more in on the employee relations side’ of things.
The MBS programme in Human Resource Management at UL can be pursued as either a one-year full-time or two-year part-time course. Normally, applicants must have a primary degree or equivalent professional qualification in a related area at first or second class honours (grade one) level. HR experience is required for entry to the part-time programme.
The MBS in Human Resource Management in DCU is pursued as a full-time, one-year option, and has a minimum entry requirement of a second class honours degree in any discipline. The university also offers a two-year part-time MBS in Human Resource Strategies. This course is geared more towards people who have already worked in the field, and applicants usually must have three years of relevant experience.
There are a whole host of other HRM postgraduate options available throughout Ireland. For instance, the National University of Ireland, Galway, offers a Master of Science (MSc) course in Industrial Relations and Human Resource Management. It is a one-year, full-time programme, and a second-class honours degree, usually a grade one, in business, management or a related discipline is required for admittance.
Programme Director Deirdre Curran adds: ‘Every year we accept candidates with an arts, law or other background and we feel that the cognate diversity adds to the richness of the class. In exceptional circumstances we have also accepted candidates without an undergraduate degree because of a combination of their extensive work experience and non-degree level courses of study.’
In a similar fashion to the aforementioned courses, the NUI Galway programme is responsive to trends and developments that affect human resources management. Deirdre Curran explains: ‘Our individual modules and the programme as a whole are regularly reviewed and updated to keep up with both theoretical and applied developments.’
There are numerous other options throughout Ireland for those who wish to pursue postgraduate study in this area, including courses at the Waterford Institute of Technology and UCD. For instance, the National College of Ireland offers a Postgraduate Diploma in Arts in Human Resource Management. This qualification is attained over one year – though students can elect to complete an additional semester to get a Masters of Arts (MA).
Dublin Business School also offers a number of courses in this area, including an MBA in HRM, which can be pursued as a one-year full-time or two-year part-time option; and a Postgraduate Higher Diploma in Business Studies (HRM), which can be pursued as either a one-year full-time or 16-month part-time option. Applicants must have an unrelated primary honours degree of at least pass level, or an equivalent qualification. Graduates can progress to DBS’s MSC in HRM, which again can be pursued as either a one-year full-time or two-year part-time option.
So human resources management is a among the most important and relevant areas of study in today’s economic climate – training people to offer solutions to many of our current problems, while absorbing important lessons from our present gloomy circumstances.