Postgraduate: Conversion Courses

A new one-year course at Kent gives students a fast-track entry into business, says Miriam Laurance
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The Independent Online

o, what are you going to do with that, then?" It's a question any arts student with a newly acquired degree will be familiar with, and one that can often be a little tricky to answer. Even if you have some idea of where you want to go, getting there from a degree in a non-vocational subject isn't always easy. This is especially true if it's business or management you want to get into.

This dilemma faced Bryn Walton. He wasn't sure what he wanted to do when he left school, so he did an inter-disciplinary degree in American studies. Once he'd finished that, he says, "I was still unsure about where I was heading. I found myself a temporary job, and settled into the same groove that many graduates find themselves in. I realised something needed to be done, but any job applications I sent in were being rejected." The solution: a further degree. With neither the business experience nor the money for fees, he couldn't do an MBA, so he found an alternative, an MSc in management at the Kent Business School.

This is a new course, set up only a year ago as a response to the dramatic fall in numbers on the MBA course when it was restricted to those who already had three years' experience at work. Kent Business School wished to dispel the myth that you had to have a business background to study management at postgraduate level. The new courses were designed to be one-year conversion courses for students from any discipline who wanted to become more employable by gaining the skills and knowledge for success in business. It costs £8,300 for UK students, considerably less than an MBA (now £14,500 a year at Kent).

Once there, students can go down specialist pathways, for example e-business, but they will also gain a detailed education in management skills and knowledge. "Students from arts subjects often feel that their options are limited," says Rosemary Hayes, marketing and external relations officer. "They might, for example, become a PA, in the hope that they can work their way up the company. But often they get stuck in secretarial roles that make little use of the skills they learnt from their degree.

"The hope is that this course makes the students very appealing to employers, as they now have a wide range of expertise, with a broader education than those who have simply followed the business degree path. It gives them added value and is, I think, the perfect combination." Thus a philosophy graduate could, after this course, she suggests, become a specialist in business ethics.

Walton agrees. "Obviously, the students with a business background have an advantage over me when it comes to knowing theories and frameworks, but I feel that we non-business types have our own advantages." That is because they have become used to engaging in a number of different subjects. His fellow student Natalie Burke concurs. She did a degree in biosciences, but decided that she had had enough of laboratories. She continued her studies at Kent Business School, but feels that her scientific background has contributed: "I have been able to transfer my analytical and research skills to help me with my work."

It seems that a business course offers more than just employability. Burke and Walton praise the atmosphere at Kent, and the friendliness and enthusiasm of both staff and pupils.

Walton also describes his course as "possibly the most international I've ever come across". Ninety per cent of the students on it are from outside UK.

Both have found the course inspiring. Burke intends to work in human resource management or operations management, and says that the course has helped her to "find something that I want to do for the rest of my life."

Walton, too, has finally decided on a career path. He now intends to undertake an actuarial qualification and go into the public sector, where he hopes the decisions he makes will affect people rather than money. They don't have a bad word to say about the Kent Business School. In fact, Burke describes her decision to go there as the best she ever made.

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