Business courses – a global perspective

How important is it to gain international understanding from your business degree?

The complexity of Brexit has shown how deeply entangled the global economy is. Photograph: iStockphoto

The complexity of Brexit has shown how deeply entangled the global economy is. Photograph: iStockphoto

 

Business is the most international of all subjects. The complexity of Brexit has shown how deeply entangled the global economy is, and how difficult it is for one country to go it alone. So can a business degree give graduates a global perspective, and how important is it for career prospects?

Dr Etain Kidney is the assistant head of TU Dublin’s school of marketing, and she also manages a number of business programmes in the college. “We live in an open, highly globalised economy,” she says. “Suppliers, distribution and marketing happen across borders and involve managing cross-cultural teams. Internationally-focused global citizens have never been more important in a world where Brexit and Trump contributes to a rolling zeitgeist of uncertainty.”

A good business course should produce graduates with teamwork, leadership, interpersonal, communication and IT skills, says Kidney. “Intrapersonal skills – how people communicate with and understand themselves – also matter, and these are the attributes we want to see in graduates of business programmes.”

Susan Kilty, people partner at PwC, one of the biggest professional services and auditing firms in the world, agrees that business students are living in a highly connected and global environment.

Challenges

“Against the backdrop of massive international challenges like Brexit, the need for strong global acumen has never been greater. International business courses provide students with the opportunity to study core business subjects while gaining cultural proficiency and, most importantly, develop the skills to adapt to a changing workplace. The skills are transferable no matter what area students choose to launch their career in.”

To take just one example of a firm with international reach, PwC has more than 225,000 employees in 57 countries. “The graduates joining us are constantly immersed in a global culture and diverse way of thinking,” says Kilty. “We understand that recruiting people from different backgrounds who work together is paramount to our success with clients and society as a whole.”

At TU Dublin and other institutions, business courses are international by design, and it’s worthwhile for students to explore the details before they sign up. A business course with the word “international” in its title generally means that students will study a language alongside their business modules, and may also spend a year abroad. The demand for graduates with a language – particularly those from computer science, engineering or business courses speaking a European language, Cantonese or Japanese – is very high, and the increasingly international nature of business means that demand will almost certainly continue to grow.

On a general business course, students can often opt to study abroad or do an international work placement, and they’ll be prepared for this with a period of study or work abroad.

“Our courses are designed to build citizens who can work on cross-cultural teams and there’s also a curriculum for international economics or management.” says Kidney. “On our business and management programme, students get an opportunity to study abroad and some may do an international work placement.”

Developed

Kilty cautions that strong academics alone no longer guarantee a successful career. “Employers want to see graduates who have developed both personally and professionally throughout their degree. The value of work placement or internship modules, and the importance of this experience, should not be underestimated. In addition to obtaining experience in their chosen business area, students [undertaking these modules] can avail of career advice, mentorship and networking opportunities. Work experience is often the first step to a long and fruitful career, and it provides students with the opportunity to gain valuable business [skills] and maximise their career potential.”

PwC is one of several companies who partner with Irish third-levels to provide work placements of up to a year, as well as summer internships of between eight-12 months, and many students who participate in them will be offered a job upon graduation.

“Business graduates are among the few students with access to a wide range of careers while still having the option to specialise in a particular area if they wish,” says Kilty. “Students who gain an in-depth knowledge in financial subjects such as accountancy, economics or finance, while having a broad exposure to non-finance subjects such as HR or marketing, have a diverse skill set and are well-equipped to deal with the challenges our business and clients face.”

Selection of international business courses

* BComm International at University College Dublin: One of the most popular business courses in Ireland gives students a grounding in the fundamentals of business, which they study alongside a foreign language and culture. A year abroad is a core part of the course.

* Bachelor in Business Studies (global business) at Trinity College: This programme offers core business modules alongside the chance to learn a foreign language, gain work experience, study abroad and carry out a research project.

* BA in international business at University of Limerick: A range of business-focused modules alongside language options including French, German, Japanese for beginners and advanced or beginners’ Spanish. A one-year overseas study and work placement is a core part of the programme.

* BA in Global Business at DCU: DCU offers a suite of international business programmes where students have the opportunity to study and work abroad for two of their four college years in countries including Canada, France, Germany, Spain and the United States. In the two English-speaking countries, students will also be given the chance to study a foreign language.

* BA in business (international) at Maynooth University: A business course offered through the university’s arts programme, giving students the chance to study abroad or go on Erasmus in third year, and graduating with a BA international in fourth year.

* International commerce at UCC: Students on this course learn about essential business modules alongside language and culture options including Chinese, Italian, Spanish, French and German.

NUI Galway commerce graduate Ryan Ludden: ‘On the day my MSc ended I got on a plane to New York and pounded the pavements for work.’
NUI Galway commerce graduate Ryan Ludden: ‘On the day my MSc ended I got on a plane to New York and pounded the pavements for work.’

‘In New York, you’ll find unparalleled opportunities’

“My name is Ryan Ludden, I’m 24 years old and I’m a business development manager at Sprintax, part of the Taxback Group in Ireland and a fintech off-spin that sells tax software into American education institutions. Our offices are based in New York, Chicago and Dublin.

“In 2001, my father set up our family business, Introsports Ltd, at home in Corofin, Co Galway, selling official GAA merchandise. Growing up, breakfast consisted of the sound of the old internet dial tone and my father speaking to suppliers around the world. My brother and I grew up with the company so business was always a natural choice for us.

“I studied commerce – global experience at NUI Galway, which involved three years of the usual commerce course with an add-on year of ‘global experience’ which consisted of a work placement plus a semester of business studies abroad. Then I did a masters in marketing practice, a year-long placement-based programme; I worked in business development for a tech start-up called Appraisee.ie for just under a year.

“On the day my MSc ended I got on a plane to New York and pounded the pavements for work. New York is a beast, but if you put you put the time and effort into it you’ll find opportunities that are unparalleled anywhere else. At Sprintax, I was able to use my experience in business and as an international student – and I’m still with the company today.

“The beauty of my undergraduate course was that it was broad to start with, including modules in marketing, economics, statistics for business, accounting and human resources. That laid strong foundations to really specialise in marketing closer to final year. But I think that the third year of my course, which focused on ‘global experience’, really differentiated it from the usual commerce programmes. I got a work placement with Aviva insurance, and this gave me real, hands-on experience of working in an internationally-focused environment. I was assisting with global marketing strategies and witnessing from the inside how a large multinational group could work like a well-oiled machine across different markets.

“The next stage was to study abroad. Being the only Irish person in a room at the University of Maryland in America was strange and humbling. Everyone was so engaged and questions would pour in across a 300-strong lecture hall. I also learned a lot about creating your own business, taking risks and the positives of failing.

“Irish people are not afraid of working internationally. Today, there are very few companies that don’t interact on an international level, so that international experience puts you in better favour.”