British Undergraduate Degrees in Business
(Variety is the Spice of Life)STUDY at Aston Business School
British undergraduate degrees in business are probably the most popular degree in terms of both student demand and provision.
All but the very specialist universities will have a programme that falls under the general heading of ‘business’, although the titles of the programmes vary considerably across different institutions.
If you look in a prospectus or course guide, you may have to look under business management science, commerce, administration or economics before you find the course available.
Many degrees also may suggest a more specialist focus, such as finance, marketing, retail management, tourism management or international business. So it can be very confusing and you need to be very careful how you interpret the title or you may find that the programme is not quite what you expected!
In addition to this complicated situation you may also find that business forms part of a hybrid programme where business combines with another subject (such as law, engineering, international studies, computing), to form what is in effect a joint degree.
Such degrees enable you to gain knowledge in differing disciplines so that you can develop yourself in a way that suits your interests and aspirations. You can see therefore that although there are many business courses, each institution will seek to create a course which differs to a greater or lesser extent from other business programmes.
This article is primarily concerned with British courses but there are comparable products from other countries, particularly the USA, and Australia. The structure and style may be different in these countries so when you are considering which course to do you need to have a clear idea of what you are looking for and then must read the information very carefully. I will give some hints on this later.
A British business degree tends to have certain common features although, as with most things, there are exceptions. Business, by its very nature, is a multidisciplinary affair, and so most courses will have at least an element of what can be regarded as key business functions such as finance, marketing and human resource management.
Some will also have functions such as operations management, supply chain management, production management, all of which are vital in modern global business but are not always available on every programme. Business graduates must be numerate so most degrees will have courses in quantitative methods and statistics.
In today’s world, information technology is all around us. Many of you will no doubt be familiar with computers, the Internet, World Wide Web and so on, but a business programme should develop the ability to harness the technology for the benefit of the business.
You should think very carefully before embarking on a course which does not give adequate support in this area as most employers will expect their graduate employees to be proficient in using computers.
One final area that should appear in business programmes is a core course in business policy or business strategy. This takes a strategic view of business and develops the ability to take a multidisciplinary approach to managing a business and resolving problems and issues.
This discipline provides the ‘glue’ that binds all the other business disciplines together.
There are of course other disciplines which might be considered. Most universities will have a Law School and so law will often feature in business programmes.
The problem for overseas students is that the law will tend to be English law, which may be appropriate in countries like Singapore, Malaysia and Nigeria which have very similar systems, but would not be appropriate in say Taiwan, Korea or Greece where systems are different.
One can argue that modern business needs to be aware of logal rights and duties and how these might affect business decisions, and this is a powerful argument. Equally, however, there is so much to be learnt within the functions mentioned earlier that there is a danger of degrees becoming overcrowded with subject matter.
Similarly economics is a valuable discipline in its own right, and there are many excellent degree programmes in economics. Whilst business degrees need to have some economics input into their programmes you have to strike the right balance.
If you want to do a programme with a significant element of economics, you might prefer to consider courses like business economics which still retain a business focus but from the perspective of economics.
All of this must seem very confusing and you are probably thinking that you will never find the right course. On the contrary, the wide choice works to your advantage because there is more chance you will be able to find a course that suits you. What you must do is consider what are your strengths and weaknesses.
If you are not very strong in mathematics don’t choose a course that is too quantitative. If you like working with people, look for a course with human resource management options, if you expect to work in manufacturing, look for production and operations management options and so on.
Most degrees will be structured so that you must do certain courses (the core or mandatory modules) an in addition you will have to choose some option modules.
When looking at the prospectus look at the balance between the two, the more flexibility there is within the option structure, the more you will be able to tailor the course to suit you abilities. You will find there tends to be a difference in approach between the traditional universities, (such as London, Birmingham, Manchester) and the new wave programmes, but the new wave universities tend to be more vocationally orientated than the traditional universities.
A lot of the new wave universities and some of the traditional ones have modular programmes which work on a credit accumulation basis and therefore offer a wide range of flexible programmes and option choices. Here at Coventry, for example, BA Business Administration students have over 30 options to choose from in the final year.
Finally you should look at the support that the University you are interested in can offer you as an overseas student. You are a very important part of the community.
Students on a course with a multinational community all benefit from sharing and comparing experiences and cultures. Friendships made often last a lifetime, and help to develop you as an international business person.
Coming to a different country is an adventure, but initially you will need some help and guidance on settling in, getting used to different teaching methods, and different assessment methods such as projects, presentations, case studies. You should check what support you will be offered.
Generally, universities with a significant population of overseas students will be geared up to help you, but check it out anyway. Ask your friends and advisors - the ‘grapevine’ is very effective!
You should also check out the location of the campus, transport facilities, and accommodation. Some universities are in city centres, so you are near shops, entertainment and bus stations, but you may have to live some distance away. Other universities have sites out of town and are more self-contained but some students find it too quiet and prefer to be in the bustle of a city centre. The choice is yours.
There is a lot to think about and it is a very important decision for you to make. Take your time, find out as much as you can, plan ahead, and be realistic in what you can achieve. There is a course that will suit you somewhere. Good Luck!
One place to consider is American InterContinental University in London which makes it possible to fit education into your schedule, and nurtures your achievement with incredible support.
Also consider undergraduate business degrees at Aston Business School.