Ready-made courses for farmers, friars and footballers

From church management to criminal justice, tailor-made MBAs are increasingly on offer, catering for a surprising number of professions. Simon Midgley reports on a qualification adapting to the modern job market
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The Independent Culture
Later this year the first cohort of students from Liverpool University's new Footballing Industries MBA will graduate. From next January parish priests will be able to enhance their management skills and chances of becoming a Bishop by enrolling on Britain's first MBA programme in church management. The specialist MBA programme, it seems, is flourishing, and sometimes in the most unlikely places.

For some years now there have been opportunities to tailor your MBA to your specialist field of interest, for example: agribusiness (Aberystwyth and the Royal Agricultural College); criminal justice (Nottingham University); communications (Leeds Metropolitan); retailing (Stirling) and real estate (Paisley). And this is just a few of the specialised courses on offer.

However, new and more exotic specialisms are coming thick and fast. From January, an MBA in Church Management is to be offered by Bishop Grosseteste College, a Church of England teacher training college in Lincoln, in conjunction with Hull University.

Dr Mark Chater, senior lecturer in religious studies and programme leader, says the new MBA will be a unique opportunity in Britain to develop future leaders in all denominations who will be theologically literate and also literate in management theory and practice.

The Rt. Rev Dr Robert Hardy, the Anglican bishop of Lincoln and chairman of the college's board of governors, felt there was a need for a specialised MBA for ministers, priests and lay Christians from charities, schools, colleges, retreats, religious communities and hospices.

Indeed Dr Chater wants to make it clear that he is not closed to the idea of "people from other faith traditions coming on the course because we guess that the of management and leadership in a faith tradition are probably going to be generic."

The part-time, two-year course will be conducted by distance learning interspersed with 21, two to three day residential teaching periods at either the college or Hull University. The teaching will be shared between Hull, which will validate the degree, and the college.

The programme, costing pounds 3,500 per year, will consist of lectures, tutorials, workshops, case studies, group work and an extended project which could involve an investigation of a management and theological issue in the student's own denomination or faith tradition.

Dr Chater is keen to emphasise that the course is not intended to uncritically offer Christians fashionable management nostrums but is concerned with the critical engagement of managerial theory with theological thought.

Meanwhile, in Liverpool last September, Liverpool University started the world's first MBA in Footballing Industries. Twenty students are now studying on the one year, full-time course being run by the university's business school and football research unit.

Dr Rogan Taylor, the director of the unit, says that the footballing industry, which is now a pounds 180bn business in Europe alone, is keen to develop new ways of recruiting people to manage the burgeoning sector.

The course is not about managing football teams but rather about grooming managers for the football industries, i.e. clubs, people who make products for football, sell products through football, companies who sponsor competitions and the media industry that reports and constructs the professional game.

The MBA consists of four core modules taught at the business school and four football modules chosen from: football and society; organisational structures; world perspectives; the international business of football and football and the media. A dissertation from a placement is worth another four modules. Fees for EU students next year are pounds 3,110 and for those from the rest of the world pounds 7,674.

City University offers six specialist MBAs of which one of the most respected is finance. Students choosing finance, of which there are some 50 this year, study a general management core, specialist courses, a set of electives and a project based on a three-month internship in a company, bank or a financial institution.

The specialist courses include corporate finance, managerial accounting, financial management and control, international finance, financial institutions and markets and quantitative methods for finance.

The electives include a choice of: mergers and acquisitions, futures, forwards and swaps, options, equity portfolio management, forecasting and property finance.

The fees for the one year, full-time course are pounds 13,000 for both EU and non EU students. Many of the students aspire to go on to a career in the City after they graduate.

The University of Dundee runs three specialist MBAs. All the courses are full-time and students spend one year studying nine core modules with the MBA department, as well as three specialist electives at the centre. They also have to submit a 15,000-word dissertation. Fees are pounds 9,500.

At present there are four students studying for an MBA in oil and gas management and one in mineral resources management. The department, which is very international and interdisciplinary, attracts lawyers, economists, geologists and engineers to its MBA programmes.