Business courses give students confidence to get high-flying jobs

If a business executive is someone who knows something about everything, business studies courses are magpie courses, borrowing something from everyone, incorporating psychology, politics, economics. You name it, they've nicked it and applied it to examining and comparing business practices, the multifarious cogs and wheels that drive the global economy.

Mixing a fascination with the cogs and wheels of business and an interest in the broader world is what the best business studies courses, like those at St Andrews, are all about. As a social science business studies falls between the posts of arts and sciences, borrowing bits from both, so you can do management as an MA with politics or poetry or as a BSc with maths or biology.

"That breadth brings a different dimension and educational health to the finalists," says Peter McKiernan, director of management courses at St Andrews. "It means our graduates are better at critical thinking, at going into organisations from a consultancy or audit side and asking probing questions."

George Mendes, 22, will be doing this next year with a job in Accenture's strategy unit. "I've loved it, the opportunity to dip across and do different things," says Mendes, a BSc economics and management student at St Andrews.

And the management itself does not just mean four years studying box factories. Mendes has looked at sustainable development and scenario thinking, an odd sort of futurology. "St Andrews really focuses on building students who can think for themselves rather than a factory of managers," he says. "Teaching approaches to management rather than just equipping them with the tools."

If however, you weren't a budding business guru as a school leaver, you've not necessarily missed the business studies boat. It is sometimes criticized as a subject for providing "one size fits all" models. One size would certainly not fit all, however, at the Open University.

"We must have one of the widest student bases of any university, from 18-year-olds to the retired," says Mike Green, senior lecturer of business studies at the OU. "We don't tell anyone how to manage, we say 'here are some ideas', so students can marry their own experience with a framework to think about that experience, that's pretty valuable."

This philosophy of reflective practice works particularly well with students who work at the same time, says Green, taking ideas back to work, seeing how they play, and bringing that back to monthly tutorials.

That does not have to be management experience. Business studies courses are not just for high-flyers. Richard Okoduwa, 36, was working as a security guard when he started the course four years ago. Six months after graduating he is now a management trainee with Oxfam. "It's been very, very useful," he says. "I've turned my life around. I became so much more confident. That confidence is invaluable."

Even high-flyers with bags of confidence have something to learn. The MBA, Masters in Business Administration, is the gold standard of the business élite and the UK's most prestigious place to graduate from is Oxford University's Saïd Business School.

MBA courses are, mostly, much of a muchness. The students are what make the difference. Saïd's students come from 49 countries, but all have one thing in common. "We don't want people who will simply soak up, but people who will contribute too," says Professor Roy Westbrook, who heads the school. "So you get the benefit of their experience and diversity in class, you get a great discussion."

"It's a really great mixing and meeting pot of different cultures, viewpoints and strategies," says Jennifer Segal, an MBA student at Saïd. "We learn a lot from each other." In the hotel business before joining the MBA, Segalhopes her time at Saïd will help her to live her dream and go it alone. She has already won the Oxford Entrepreneurs Idea Idol competition and had an offer of investment for her business development project, designer casts and slings for people happy to risk life and limb on the slopes and know they'll look good no matter what. "I'm an entrepreneurial type," she says. "I would love to do my own thing." You never know. The beautiful things about cogs and wheels are the revolutions and what they can make happen.

Susan Sarandon described David Bowie as
peopleSusan Sarandon reveals more on her David Bowie romance
Arsenal supporters gather for a recent ‘fan party’ in New Jersey
sportDidier Drogba returns to Chelsea on one-year deal
Arts and Entertainment
The Secret Cinema performance of Back to the Future has been cancelled again
Life and Style
Balmain's autumn/winter 2014 campaign, shot by Mario Sorrenti and featuring Binx Walton, Cara Delevingne, Jourdan Dunn, Ysaunny Brito, Issa Lish and Kayla Scott
fashionHow Olivier Rousteing is revitalising the house of Balmain
Arts and Entertainment
Christian Grey cradles Ana in the Fifty Shades of Grey film
filmFifty Shades of Grey trailer provokes moral outrage in US
BBC broadcaster and presenter Evan Davis, who will be taking over from Jeremy Paxman on Newsnight
peopleForget Paxman - what will Evan Davis be like on Newsnight?
Life and Style
fashionCustomer complained about the visibly protruding ribs
newsComedy club forced to apologise as maggots eating a dead pigeon fall out of air-conditioning
Arts and Entertainment
Jo Brand says she's mellowed a lot
tvJo Brand says shows encourage people to laugh at the vulnerable
Life and Style
People may feel that they're procrastinating by watching TV in the evening
Tovey says of homeless charity the Pillion Trust : 'If it weren't for them and the park attendant I wouldn't be here today.'
Rhys Williams
commonwealth games
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs Student

Learning Support Assistant

£50 per day: Randstad Education Manchester Secondary: Experienced Learning Sup...


£100 - £120 per day: Randstad Education Chelmsford: Are you a flexible inspira...

Graduate Accountant - Banking - Bristol - £140pd

£100 - £140 per day + competitive: Orgtel: Graduate Accountant - Banking - Bri...

Trainee Recruitment Consultants - Banking & Finance

£20000 - £25000 per annum + OTE £40,000: SThree: SThree Group have been well e...

Day In a Page

Evan Davis: The BBC’s wolf in sheep’s clothing to take over at Newsnight

The BBC’s wolf in sheep’s clothing

What will Evan Davis be like on Newsnight?
Finding the names for America’s shame: What happens to the immigrants crossing the US-Mexico border without documents who never make it past the Arizona desert?

Finding the names for America’s shame

The immigrants crossing the US-Mexico border without documents who never make it past the Arizona desert
Inside a church for Born Again Christians: Speaking to God in a Manchester multiplex

Inside a church for Born Again Christians

As Britain's Anglican church struggles to establish its modern identity, one branch of Christianity is booming
Rihanna, Kim Kardashian and me: How Olivier Rousteing is revitalising the house of Balmain

Olivier Rousteing is revitalising the house of Balmain

Parisian couturier Pierre Balmain made his name dressing the mid-century jet set. Today, Olivier Rousteing – heir to the house Pierre built – is celebrating their 21st-century equivalents. The result? Nothing short of Balmania
Cancer, cardiac arrest, HIV and homelessness - and he's only 39

Incredible survival story of David Tovey

Tovey went from cooking for the Queen to rifling through bins for his supper. His is a startling story of endurance against the odds – and of a social safety net failing at every turn
Backhanders, bribery and abuses of power have soared in China as economy surges

Bribery and abuses of power soar in China

The bribery is fuelled by the surge in China's economy but the rules of corruption are subtle and unspoken, finds Evan Osnos, as he learns the dark arts from a master
Commonwealth Games 2014: Highland terriers stole the show at the opening ceremony

Highland terriers steal the show at opening ceremony

Gillian Orr explores why a dog loved by film stars and presidents is finally having its day
German art world rocked as artists use renowned fat sculpture to distil schnapps

Brewing the fat from artwork angers widow of sculptor

Part of Joseph Beuys' 1982 sculpture 'Fettecke' used to distil schnapps
BBC's The Secret History of Our Streets reveals a fascinating window into Britain's past

BBC takes viewers back down memory lane

The Secret History of Our Streets, which returns with three films looking at Scottish streets, is the inverse of Benefits Street - delivering warmth instead of cynicism
Joe, film review: Nicolas Cage delivers an astonishing performance in low budget drama

Nicolas Cage shines in low-budget drama Joe

Cage plays an ex-con in David Gordon Green's independent drama, which has been adapted from a novel by Larry Brown
How to make your own gourmet ice lollies, granitas, slushy cocktails and frozen yoghurt

Make your own ice lollies and frozen yoghurt

Think outside the cool box for this summer's tempting frozen treats
Ford Fiesta is UK's most popular car of all-time, with sales topping 4.1 million since 1976

Fiesta is UK's most popular car of all-time

Sales have topped 4.1 million since 1976. To celebrate this milestone, four Independent writers recall their Fiestas with pride
10 best reed diffusers

Heaven scent: 10 best reed diffusers

Keep your rooms smelling summery and fresh with one of these subtle but distinctive home fragrances that’ll last you months
Commonwealth Games 2014: Female boxers set to compete for first time

Female boxers set to compete at Commonwealth Games for first time

There’s no favourites and with no headguards anything could happen
Five things we’ve learned so far about Manchester United under Louis van Gaal

Five things we’ve learned so far about United under Van Gaal

It’s impossible to avoid the impression that the Dutch manager is playing to the gallery a little