Earlier this month, 43 final-year students from the UCD Bachelor of Business Studies (BBS) degree programme gathered in the Atrium of the UCD Quinn Business School to present their final-year research projects. Topics covered ranged from change management in organisations, talent management strategies, strategy implementation, operations management, digital marketing, and leadership styles.
The presentations formed a key element of the 20th anniversary celebrations for this highly innovative course which is aimed at providing quality and flexible higher education opportunities to mature students. Developed in 1997, the programme was built on well-established links between UCD College of Business, IBEC and the ICTU, and more than 500 graduates have come through it since then.
The part-time programme is split into two components – a two-year Diploma in Business Studies (DBS) followed by the two-year BBS, and has been designed to be flexible to allow participants to study part time while continuing to work full time.
Students attend weekend lectures, Fridays and Saturdays, on campus, just six times a year, with the rest of the study and course work being done remotely. This flexibility is critically important, according to Dr Orna O’Brien, director of the Centre for Distance Learning at UCD College of Business.
“It’s designed for mature students who are over 23 years of age who couldn’t get degrees before,” she says. “Because it is built around three weekends in a semester, students are able to organise their work schedules around it. Many of our students have wanted to do a business degree for a long time and the BBS programme offers them the flexibility to do it. That’s reflected in our very good retention rate and very high levels of engagement from the students.”
It has also proved popular with students both within Ireland and abroad. "About half of the students come from Dublin and another 40 per cent to 45 per cent come from the rest of the country. The rest come from overseas, including the UK, Europe and the US who fly in to do it. We have one student from Florida who has built her work schedule around it. In many cases it tends to be Irish people living abroad who are thinking of returning home who do the course. It really speaks to the idea of UCD being a global university that you can get funding for the programme from an employer in Florida, Moscow or Tel Aviv."
The programme is both practical and academic and covers a broad range of business modules including economics, marketing, organisational behaviour, employee relations, human resources, and business strategy.
The diversity of the student cohort goes beyond geography. "The gender balance has been roughly 50/50 for many years," says Dr Maeve Houlihan, vice principal teaching & learning at UCD College of Business. "All of the students have past experience of business. We have business owners, senior, middle and junior managers from a variety of organisations. There's no real standard profile of student."
This diversity creates a particular dynamic, according to O’Brien. “The students help each other on both academic and real-life work problems and build up very strong networks as a result. It has opened up new vistas for many of them. A student might be from a pharachem background but will meet people from all different sectors with different perspectives on the course. They can work together in the classroom or on projects which relate to issues they might have in their workplaces.”
Class of 2012 graduate Steve Kelly splits his time between the Aer Lingus management team and flying Airbus 320s. "I signed up for the programme in 2008 because I wanted to develop my knowledge and skill base and education," he says. "I was interested in business and management and Aer Lingus ran a scholarship programme for staff interested in furthering education. I was fortunate to be selected along with three other colleagues. The BBS was very good, I was able to bring day-to-day issues into the course and apply learning from the programme to workplace problems. I really appreciate the education I got in UCD Quinn School. I have grown personally and professionally as a result"
The course is very well structured, combining distance learning and campus attendance, he adds. “Time management is the biggest challenge but the course is built to flex with students’ needs. Life at home gets put on hold a bit so you have to make sure everyone at home is on board.”
Current student Alice Flynn has worked for Allianz for the past 18 years, in a management role for the past four. "I wanted to position myself as best as possible for the future from a career development point of view and I was delighted when I got accepted for the BBS programme. I've just completed my first year and found it very enjoyable. It would have been an awful lot easier 20 years ago without children and a job and home life. It's just about planning in advance and giving yourself the time to enjoy what you're doing. It hasn't felt like a chore at all and it's been very enjoyable. I know my schedule already for Year 2 so I'm able to plan in advance for it."
For more information on the part-time Bachelor of Business Studies visit ucd.ie/quinn/parttime/parttimedbsbbs/