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Ulster University's Business Engagement Unit, set up several years ago and led by Professor Gillian Armstrong, does exactly what it says on the tin. It works with industry to ensure that Ulster University courses are meeting the needs of employers and supporting the skills agenda.

It could hardly be a more important role for a university that prides itself in being relevant to today's business world. And, among the latest of the University’s industry aligned courses is the MSc Business in Technology programme, a trio of standalone courses that build to an integrated MSc award, better known as the MBT. This is a multidisciplinary programme developed by the Ulster University Business School and the School of Computing.

"The programme design combines leading-edge academic theory with best practice from industry,” says Course Director and Senior Lecturer in Business Consulting, Helen McKenna.

We work closely with industry to find out their needs and challenges and then co-create a solution that is fit for purpose. One of the key messages from the industry is the need to develop advanced business acumen and leadership skills alongside technological capability– a rare combination highly sought after by employers.

It's a programme developed in consultation with Ulster University's partner institution, Babson College in the USA, one of the country's top entrepreneurship colleges. But it's also the result of ongoing engagement with a range of strategic learning partners, including PwC.

The uniquely flexible part-time programme sets out to marry business understanding with technological capabilities through three postgraduate pathways. There is a postgraduate (PG) Certificate in Business Analysis and Consulting, a PG Diploma in Transformation Management and Leadership and the MSc Business in Technology. Depending on the students preferred way of learning, both blended and 100% online modes of study are available.

Claire Shields, Director of Capability and Development for Execution Managed Services at PwC was involved in the development of the programme. She commented on how the programme was delivering real business value for PwC:

In a fast-changing world having employees with relevant skills is critical to a high-performing business. Tomorrow’s leaders will need to have a blend of business and technical know-how and Ulster University’s Business in Technology MSc offers exactly that. This programme has been a vital platform in driving skills development across PwC, delivering tangible business benefits through enhanced workforce capability and employee engagement. It has equipped learners with the latest insights in business strategy, transformation and technical awareness to address business challenges and navigate opportunities with confidence. The strong practical focus of the course meant that the learnings could be applied to the business almost immediately.

“The Masters qualification is a specialist business and leadership programme for tech professionals,” says Helen McKenna. “It's also the first course of its kind to come to market from a leading university. It's aimed at anyone currently working in a tech or project management role who wants to widen their business and leadership knowledge and expertise to drive forward innovation and digital transformation in their organisation.”

“The feedback has been very positive,” Helen adds. An initial cohort of employees from PwC is due to graduate this December, and other students are at different stages on the course.

We have designed the modules and course structure to reflect the specific needs of tech professionals and organisations in tech-powered industries. If you work in tech and want to be able to manage stakeholders better, improve your consulting skills, solve complex business problems and take a leading part in transformation in your organisation, you’ll find this MSc is tailored to your needs.

A course dedicated to the tech sector needs to address the current and future concerns of the industry. Helen McKenna reckons that that's what Ulster University has done and continues to do.

"Not only do several members of our academic staff come from backgrounds in the sector, but the Business in Technology programme has been meticulously designed with input directly from industry. We consulted with industry leaders, large organisations and key executives to build our modules and learning outcomes. Course tutors also keep in regular contact with their industry connections and many are involved in commercially-focused research projects, staying involved with the programme evolution on an ongoing basis."

"And while the course is challenging, our staff ensure students are fully supported throughout to understand and implement the learning. They'll leave the programme ready to lead transformation, manage stakeholders, and achieve ambitious business objectives."

Our aim is to advance business and leadership capability in a tech-powered world. This means we’re invested in future-proofing students for senior roles in the technology industry and preparing them to succeed in dynamic environments with critical thought and action.

Designing career-oriented modules means more than teaching the theories and models of business and leadership principles.

“While it’s important to have a firm grounding in academic thinking, we strive to ensure our students take their learning into the workplace. Where possible, learning is contextualised so students can apply it to real-world challenges and opportunities, ensuring individual and business impact very quickly.”

As featured in Business Eye (June 2023).