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Brighton School of Business and Management Student Newsletter July 2009

The Case For and Against Studying for a Degree as a Mature Student

Many mature students have a strong desire to study for and gain a Bachelor Degree, believing that without a degree it will be more difficult to find work, gain promotion, or to change direction into a different career path.

This could be a good decision, but may well be a poor and damaging decision, for the following reasons:

Need
Some careers do demand a degree – for example teaching, engineering, the legal profession, many clinical specialisms – but most don’t.

In most other careers, in the public and private sectors, a degree could be useful, but there are powerful reasons for not taking this route, and focusing on a different level and type of qualification.

Age
Up to your mid 20’s there is an argument for “catching up” and then being able to make positive use of a first degree qualification.

However, for those who are nearly 30, if you gain a degree at 31-32 you will be 10 years older than most graduates just obtaining their degree. If in your mid-30’s, 15+ years older, at 40+ 20 years older.

Once you are over 30 having a degree that you have only just obtained may well be viewed as a poor decision, a waste of time, and an irrelevance (even though, yes, it would be a significant personal achievement).

Employer – Client Requirements
In today’s difficult job market there is no question that having recently gained a first degree, but not having relevant, current, professional qualifications, will cause subtle but damaging problems.

What employers and clients want – all employers and clients, in all sectors, worldwide – is solid experience and relevant mature professional qualifications in your specialism (such as in Management itself, or Quality Management, Supply Chain Management, Project Management, HR, Marketing or Consultancy).

Mature Academic Qualifications
There is of course, a market for mature students studying for a first degree, and this option is perfectly appropriate for some, particularly those wishing to move into a career pathway that requires a degree as an essential qualification.

For all others, there are better options, proven and established, and recognised and encouraged by the educational providers and by employers and clients.

These options range from academic postgraduate qualifications in a wide range of subjects and levels from Certificate, through Diploma, to MA, MSc, MBA, and for a few, the Doctorate level.

Mature Professional Development Qualifications
Included in this academic group are some qualifications which are now established as professional development, workplace, qualifications, such as the Certificate in Management Studies, Diploma in Management Studies, and a range labelled as MBA, MA, and MSc which offer business and management studies at the Masters level.

Many other professional development qualifications are available, some provided by the universities, business schools and colleges, some by private business schools and training providers.

These include internationally recognised, highly respected qualifications in areas such as Accounting, Marketing, HR, Supply Chain Management, Leadership, Quality Management, Project Management, and Management itself.

These are nationally accredited and audited by organisations such as Edexcel BTEC, the Chartered Management Institute CMI, the Chartered Quality Institute CQI, the Chartered Institute of Purchasing and Supply CIPS, the ACCA and CIMA accounting bodies.

Relevance
Finally, regardless of all other factors, we return to the most important one in respect of your personal, professional development planning and activity.

Once past your mid 20s, the only qualifications and courses of study that you should consider are those that are relevant to your immediate and-or your long term objectives.

In this context, relevant means necessary, required, expected.

To determine whether any course of study meets these criteria you need to look first at workplace environment that you are planning to be in – as an employee at any level, or in a self-employed capacity.

When you analyse what those employers or clients expect, that is the first step clarified.

Secondly, you need to look at your plans and objectives and then select the courses of study and qualifications that are required to ensure that you achieve your objectives, within the workplace environment, business sector, that you plan to be in.

Final Thought
It does not matter whether you study in the classroom, at workshops, or by distance learning. What matters is that you choose personal professional development activities that help you achieve your objectives, and help you to have a satisfying, enjoyable, and successful career (or two!).

This article was written by the tutor team at Brighton School of Business and Management, where some, but not all, of the courses and qualifications suggested here are offered. Many other providers can offer similar courses, and some can offer highly specialised qualifications.

Study Advice

Fear of Finance – advice for students who are new to this area

Finance can be daunting, but if you take a steady, calm approach to learning the course material, and working through the exercises, then supplementing this with background study (see your Tutor’s study advice attachments) you will soon be confident and be able to complete the Assignments successfully.

APPROACH: look carefully at each of the terms as you progress through the course book, revisit them as many times as necessary, search on the internet for definitions, examples – make notes so you do not forget. Look at a range of examples of company accounts, study the format of Profit and Loss Accounts, Balance Sheets, Cash Flow (Funds Flow) Statements.

These can be found in company / organisation Annual Reports – your own organisation’s, or the many examples that can be read online or requested for study purposes.

Note the following, regarding these key documents:

BALANCE SHEET: A statement of Worth that lists Assets and Liabilities – a snapshot, a picture at a moment in time (usually prepared for the annual accounts but can be prepared internally at any time).

PROFIT AND LOSS ACCOUNT: Summary of success or failure of transactions, profit or loss made for the period, that lists Income/Funds generated and Costs/Expenses incurred – a record over a period of time (usually prepared regularly for internal management accounting purposes, then for the annual accounts to see final performance over the financial year).

CASH /FUNDS FLOW STATEMENT: Summary of movement of funds that lists Cash/Funds actually received – a record over a period of time (usually prepared regularly throughout the year for internal management accounting purposes, plus whenever a forecast of future cash/funds flow is needed to help make a specific decision, such as the purchase of an asset).

RATIOS: The next step is to analyse these statements to obtain a picture of the performance of the business. Ratios are simply a way of comparing results, outcomes, performance, either over a series of months or years, or between one organisation and another – for example comparing Income to Expenses (say 2 to 1) over the last 3 years, and then looking for reasons for the changes, or one organisation’s 2:1 with another (similar) organisation’s 2.2:1, and then looking for reasons as to why one ratio is better than the other.

INFORMATION SOURCES:Definitions, explanations, and examples of all of these can be found in your course book, plus many more, interesting and valuable variations, company accounts, and case studies can be found on the internet, via our Useful Links page or via a Google – Yahoo search.

Do also read the financial pages in newspapers, including the Financial Times if possible, to keep abreast and learn more – for example you could look at directors salaries, stock levels, turnover, assets, depreciation methods, and so on.

ASSIGNMENTS:When writing assignments – focus on the “criteria” – the “instructions” and respond exactly as asked – keep it simple, do not over-complicate and do not look for things which do not exist. Use only the facts and figures given in the assignment, or financial information found in your searches if that is part of the assignment.

When calculating ratios or other figures, try to be accurate, and check your calculations, but do not worry if you make some arithmetical errors, as these can be rectified, and it is the approach, the analysis, the interpretation, the understanding of the meaning of the figures, that is important.

Written by the Tutor Team at Brighton School of Business and Management www.brightonsbm.com

Life Long Learning and Continuous Professional Development

Here’s an overview of what we call “life-long learning” and “continuous professional development” and some information about the proposed “Quality” session.

Life-long Learning and Continuous Professional Development are, I suspect, are well established in your country and within ECCO but have only been relatively recently adopted by UK public and private sectors, and the government here.

Life-long learning is a phrase that implies that “learning” (about work, business, management, personal skills, levels of expertise, etc) should in fact must continue throughout your working life.

A good example of what this means is the 30 or 40 or 50 year old “qualified” graduate / professional who has a qualification and training that was obtained when they were 21 years of age, and has undertaken no current, relevant, updating since then.

A level of expertise that is now 10 or 20 or 30 years out of date, enhanced by work experience but by how much??, cannot be acceptable.

We have a saying here “20 years in the job, 1 year’s experience” … this is no longer acceptable for a professional discipline or company or business sector or country that wants to be successful.

So, the argument is that all specialists, managers, key people, must have visible evidence that their skills, knowledge, understanding, capability are up to date/current at an appropriate level for today’s complex, pressurised, modern business world and in some cases, to guarantee this, their qualifications must be recent and relevant.

This translates, in a broader, more educational sense, into Continuing Professional Development what we call CPD which means that all specialists, managers, key people, must accept that they have a duty, an obligation, to continuously update and develop their knowledge, understanding, and skills.

In simple terms, it means that every employee, but especially team leaders, supervisors, managers, senior executives, directors, specialists, experts must accept that they have to undertake professional development on a regular basis.

In the UK for example, you cannot remain continue as a professional member of the Institute of Management, the Institute of Engineers, the Institute of Directors, unless you can show evidence of regular professional development.

If you are a teacher, doctor, nurse, solicitor you cannot continue to practice (to be a teacher/doctor/nurse/solicitor) unless you can prove that you are continually developing / updating your skills.

In some cultures this is taken for granted, in others it has been resisted until recently but it is now an established approach in most “quality” organisations around the world.

For any individual, in any business sector, employed or self-employed, working at any level of management or specialism, it is now essential that they actively continue to undertake professional development, to update their expertise, knowledge, and understanding, and to remain competitive in today’s world of work and business.

Written by the Tutor Team at Brighton School of Business and Management www.brightonsbm.com

Benefits of Management Short Courses

An overview of what our Management Short Courses involve and the value of them.

Study Format
The study is by distance learning we send you the materials by email and you can study them online or print them off in effect self-study, but with a Personal Tutor to email with questions as often as you like.

Your Personal Tutor will advise you to supplement our materials by searching on the internet for articles, definitions, case studies, quotes, etc every time you reach a new topic/issue being discussed in the material, and also to talk about the subject and issues with colleagues, managers, specialists at work.

Then when you do the Assignment go through the same process again.

This way you will build up a considerable amount of knowledge and understanding depth and breadth that will stay with you for many years.

Value
Regarding the value of the short courses in the workplace, all employers in all business sectors accept them as solid evidence that the employee/manager is serious about personal development and now knowledgeable in the particular subject/topic that they had studied, and this often contributes to that employer approving promotion, or paying for study fees for a full qualification course. This has been confirmed by our short course students aged 21 to 60 and from many different parts of the world.

Progression
For your personal professional development purposes, you will have successfully completed a short course with content at postgraduate diploma level, so it would then be worth you considering studying for a more formal, complete qualification.

We at Brighton School of Business and Management do many, as you will know, but there are providers of distance courses, classroom courses, and in-house courses, in all parts of the world, that you could also consider.

Content
The course material is based on the content and assessment standards of one of the units/subjects in our postgraduate Diploma in Management Studies qualification, but simplified, in that the achievement / assignment requirements are not as rigorous (as the Short Course is not a nationally accredited, externally examined qualification).

Final Award
If you complete the Assignment successfully, you will be awarded a Professional Development Diploma in the subject that you studied.

As the Short Courses are designed to provide a foundation of knowledge and understanding in a narrow, specific, management area, and as they are, literally, very short courses of study, there is only an “achieved” as the grade.

Start Dates
All our courses have starting dates on the first Monday in each month and at least one in mid-month (being Distance Learning they are not limited to Academic Years or Terms).

For more information, please go to our Management Short Courses page.

Written by the Tutor Team at Brighton School of Business and Management at www.brightonsbm.com

Using SMART to set Objectives

When setting and discussing objectives, targets, aims, the acronym SMART is often used, but has many variations. Here is a summary of the different, but similar, words that can be used:

  • S – specific, significant and stretching
  • M – measureable, meaningful and motivational
  • A – agreed upon with consensus, attainable and achievable in time frame, acceptable and action-oriented
  • R – realistic (within the availability of the resources), relevant, reasonable, rewarding and results-oriented
  • T – time-based, timely, tangible and trackable

Our advice? Use this full set to ensure that all of these critical elements are addressed when setting objectives.

Study Resources Suggestions – July 2009

Books

  • The Innovator’s Toolkit, by Silverstein, Samuel, De Carlo, published by Wiley
  • Managing and Delivering Performance, by Marr, published by Butterworth Heinemann
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