Birkbeck's part time degrees require committment

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The Independent Online

Birkbeck College, part of the University of London, specialises in part-time study and, in common with other institutions, is seeing a rise in applications to its management studies programmes.

Birkbeck offers a foundation programme in management studies plus three four-year BA programmes: Organisation of Work, Economics and Labour Law (popular with those working in the trade union sector); Management; and Accounting and Management. There's also a BSc in Information Systems & Management for the more IT-minded.

There are currently 200 students on the different management programmes and it's recommended that would-be students put their applications in early. The first selection evening is held in April, followed by further events throughout the year. There are no formal entry requirements for those over 21 (and over 95 per cent of Birkbeck's students are between 25 and 45), beyond a compulsory maths and essay test.

But this is no easy option: Birkbeck's courses are taught and examined to the same level as the rest of the University of London.

"We make it clear from the outset this is hard," says Dr Linda Trenberth, director of undergraduate programmes in Birkbeck's school of management. "Our students are often juggling a family, a full-time job and part-time study. Some of them come through amazing difficulties, including real family traumas, yet they are still able to support their families, keep their jobs going and sit exams. They're a special breed."

It certainly requires commitment to meet the demands of the four-year course. Students must attend three evenings a week, between 6pm and 9pm, and undertake private study and coursework. As yet there is no distance learning option, although Birkbeck is looking at this.

The course covers everything-you-ever-needed-to-know about management, from accounting, economics and capital markets to marketing, HR management and commercial law. Graduates go on to work in a wide range of organisations, in business and the public and non-profit sectors.

This is certainly the hope of Arik Benichoy, 27, who is currently awaiting the results of his BA in accounting and management. Benichoy, who works full-time as a security supervisor for an airline, hopes the degree will help him move into airline management.

"I heard about Birkbeck from some colleagues who said the hours were good if you're working," he said. "Even so, it's a big commitment. It's not easy and even though my English is good, at first I struggled with the terminology. But the college staff gave me a lot of support and were available when I needed help."

"Because I do shift work I was able to be flexible and the airline was good enough to give me time off for my exams," says Benichoy. "The college has a great library and computer facilities that are open until late.

"I'm thinking of doing a Masters in airline management next. I feel this will give me a competitive advantage because it will give me a focus to build on the broad knowledge of the first degree. However, I may have a year off first because it really is very intensive."

The lowdown

Birkbeck College is based in Bloomsbury, central London, and is part of the University of London.

The undergraduate management programmes last four years and involve three evenings of tuition a week.

The college waives its normal entry requirements for those over 21 (although there is a maths and written English test). Those under 21 need to meet the normal university entry requirements, typically two A-levels or four AS-levels.

The fees are £1,086 per annum.