Case study 02: MA in Luxury Brand Management, Regent’s University London
The final module of the MA in Luxury Brand Management offers the opportunity to undertake a Masters’ level Dissertation or Consultancy Project.
Luxury Brand Management Dissertation Consultancy Project.
Describe briefly the activity/initiative/practice
Evaluation: The module, and the programme as a whole, is evaluated by the students and by the external examiners and has grown in acceptance and impact since the first projects in 2011.
Student numbers: There are two entry points to the programme throughout a year and a typical annual number of students on the programme would be 100. Initially, every student is registered for a Dissertation Report, unless a Consultancy Project is finalised by the student or with help from the Faculty. The experience so far is that 50% stay with the Dissertation route (50 students) and 50% do a Consultancy Project (50 students). Experience also indicates that, of the 50 doing the Consultancy Project, half of them find their own projects (25 students) and half are set up by the Module Leader (25 students). As these are a combination of individual and group projects, this typically means that around 10-15 client projects need to be negotiated and agreed with clients each year. This is a significant task for the Module Leader and time has to be set aside to maintain the network of client contacts.
What is the background /context to the activity/initiative practice?
This is a relatively new and specialised MA programme that attracts both people with work experience as well as those finishing a first degree. Typically, the students are seeking to gain employment in the luxury sector in a brand-related or management role. Therefore, work experience is important and, given that the College is well located in central London with access to many luxury brands marques, it has been considered important to utilise those facts. As a result, many guest speakers are invited into the College to speak with the students and the Consultancy Project option offers another chance to apply the knowledge gained on the programme in a practical and real way, to develop the student’s skills base and potentially enhance their employability in the sector.
What made/makes it “Master's” level?
The aim for these Master’s-level students is to demonstrate both the understanding and the real world application of their knowledge, as compared to a greater focus on the learning and accumulation of knowledge at undergraduate level[V1] . Therefore, there are several differences, notable ones being that it is a live project which the client needs doing now, the students take on the responsibility of acting as real management consultants, and are working within time constraints to develop costed proposals and recommendations that may well be taken up by the client.
What challenges were encountered/overcome - in terms of mastersness - and what lessons were learned that would be helpful to others?
The selection of suitable students is an important matter, as is the construction of small teams where necessary. This may be student initiated but may also require active management by the academic staff, with input from the client who ultimately has a final say on the suitability of a particular student. Also, the timing of the client work may not fall neatly within the usual academic calendar and so a degree of flexibility and negotiation is required.
Where to next – in terms of mastersness – and what lessons were learned that would be helpful to others?
The Consultancy Project is proving on the whole to be a success with the students and with the employers, with an increasing number of students wishing to pursue this route and employers regularly requesting repeat projects. The key challenge in terms of ‘mastersness’ is to ensure that the consultancy projects are sufficiently complex and yet not too onerous for the students in the time allowed.
Information sources on Consulting and Consultancy:
- Wickham, P., Management Consulting: Delivering an Effective Project, FT Prentice Hall. London, 2007.
- Nash, S., Starting and running a successful Consultancy, How To Books Ltd., Oxford, 2007.
- Block, P., The Flawless Consulting Fieldbook and Companion, Pfeiffer Publishing. San Francisco, 2001.
- Cope, M., The Seven C’s of Consulting, FT Prentice Hall, London, 2003.
- Sadler, P., Management Consultancy - A Handbook for best practice, Kogan Page, London, 2007.
- Silberman, M., The Consultant’s Tool Kit, McGraw-Hill, London, 2001.
- Weiss, A., Million Dollar Consulting Toolkit, Wiley Publishing, New Jersey, 2006
Author’s work on Employability:
- O'Leary, S., Employability benefits of student consultancy projects rather than dissertation reports at Business & Management Masters level, Higher Education Academy's 6th employability Special Interest Group Workshop on Sustainable Employment, University of Winchester Business School, Feb 2012.
- O'Leary, S., Using entrepreneurship to enhance the employability of scientists and engineers, 1st Annual Conference on Aiming for Excellence in Science Technology Engineering & Mathematics STEM Learning and Teaching, Imperial College London & The Royal Geographical Society, Apr 2012.
- O'Leary, S., Potential student employability benefits of undertaking client-focused business projects, Assimilate conference "Assessing students at Masters' level", National Teacher Fellowship Scheme (NTFS), Leeds Metropolitan University and the Higher Education Academy, Sep 2012.
- O'Leary, S., Impact of entrepreneurship teaching on employability of scientists and engineers, ISBE paper submitted for inclusion in an upcoming special edition of the journal Industry and Higher Education, Dec 2012.
Dr Simon O'Leary, Faculty of Business & Management, European Business School, Regent's University London, Inner Circle, Regent's Park, London, NW1 4NS. T:+44 (0)207 487 7455, email: Dr Simon O'Leary