February 2012 issue

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Global business

Employers are increasingly looking for prospective candidates with an international edge. Those that take an international business degree at under- or postgraduate level in the UK may be better equipped to handle the corporate environs of an increasingly globalised world. Nicola Hancox finds out more.

While a broad-based business degree can help prepare students for the rigours of a “white collar” career, the global context in which businesses now operate mean future employers are looking for graduates who possess core skills that can be applied to an international working environment. In a bid to tap into this globalised world, tertiary providers are increasingly adding international business electives to their portfolios.

Middlesex University in London has offered its BA International Business degree since 2007 and, according to university spokesperson, Alison Megeney, the course was created to “address the need for well informed global business professionals as business becomes increasingly globalised and the world more interconnected”.

At Kent Business School, part of the University of Kent, international business is integral to its academic programming. According to Dr Fragkiskos Filippaios, Director of Postgraduate Programmes, the school has offered a standalone international business degree at undergraduate level since 2008 and at a postgraduate level, as a pathway to its MSc in Management, since 2004. Interest for both programmes has increased significantly and Filippaios attests that while Europeans drive undergraduate enrolments, the school has seen a significant rise in the number of applicants from emergent economies such as China, India and Thailand, and some African countries. “This surge in demand demonstrates the need of managers from these countries to develop their skills and prepare for a further integration of their countries into global commerce,” he says.

For others, the specialism of international business is a relatively new venture. According to Dave Amor at the University of East Anglia, their BSc degree in International Business Management welcomed its first group of students in September last year. The teaching facility’s close proximity to the city’s financial district – the London centre of UEA is located near Liverpool Street station – is another unique selling point.

To study at either under- or postgraduate level, overseas students must demonstrate they are proficient in English. At UEA, students must submit an Ielts test score of 6.5 or equivalent, with no element below 6.0, says Amor. Those that do not meet the stipulated academic or English language requirements, however, can take a preparation programme at the embedded study centre on site, run by joint venture partner, Into University Partnerships. “All preparation programmes offer guaranteed progression to the BSc in International Business Management, providing the student meets the required grades at the end of their course of study,” explains Amor.

Modules studied can vary. At Middlesex, for example, it is common that students follow general business components such as economics for business and management; the principles of marketing; and understanding people in organisations in the first year, with international elements such as human resource management in a global context added in the second year of the three-year course. Between 2008/09 and 2009/10, student intake almost doubled, notes Megeney.

Shifts within the modern business environment mean providers are constantly reviewing course content to keep it current. “Over the last couple of years, additions like a focus on corporate social responsibility, emerging markets, international entrepreneurship and international accounting standards have informed course content and curriculum development,” explains Filippaios. Ara Yeghiazarian at Kingston University, notes they too research regularly into new topics and modules for their MSc in International Business Management. Supplementary modules to have been added include cross cultural communication and entrepreneurship in an international context. With 70 students from 20 different countries, Yeghiazarian adds that the programme has a distinctly international flavour.

Students are often given the opportunity to blend the theoretical with the practical, with some degrees encompassing a work placement or paid internship. “Our Bachelor of International Business…offers a work placement a year after the second year of study, so students can put all their learning into practice,” asserts Emma Buckby at the London School of Business and Finance (LSBF). At Middlesex, work placements are recommended but are optional, says Megeney.

UK tertiary providers utilise a number of different methods when marketing their courses overseas. Buckby relates that at LSBF strategies vary and are dependent on target market, although she notes a good network of educational agents who “understand the business model” is crucial. Filippaios, meanwhile, notes that in the last few years there has been a definite shift towards online social media, but that a significant amount of resources are devoted to international recruitment fairs, whereby the school can meet interested parties face-to-face.

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