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Are Marketing Degrees Preparing Students Properly?

Insight, Marketing

For those who don’t know me, which is either none of you or possibly nearly all of you, depending on how far the reach is of this blog post, I have a MSc in Marketing from Kingston University. I mention this because we recently had a marketing student from Westminster Uni interning with us and we were discussing together whether marketing degrees are adequately equipping students for the real world of agencies and brands.

Contrary to Betteridge’s Law of Headlines, the answer isn’t a simple ‘no’. There were certainly aspects of my master’s degree that were extremely useful – most notably working on writing ‘live’ comms strategies for The Rose Theatre, learning to use SPSS and the excellent marketing simulation Markstrat.

There is of course also the truth that academic pursuit is worthy in and of itself and that the critical thinking skills and ability to analyse different information sources to produce a cogent argument, that people often learn for the first time at university, are skills that will serve anyone throughout their working life.

However, it’s very difficult to see past the price tag that comes with Higher Education. And if I were paying around £30k for a (at least semi-) vocational course, as our intern was, would I be happy with just that? In any other service industry, for that price I’d expect excellence in everything and that I’d be learning how to become a great marketer.

Our intern, Arjun, told us,

“The more generic subjects, usually the core modules revolve around fundamental business principles, Porter’s 5 Forces, the BCG Matrix and a plethora of pie charts. The issue is there is probably nothing less I would want to do than be in dull setting staring at charts all day and crunching numbers, I appreciate it’s a part of the field and it is always useful to have a broader knowledge, the problem is that these courses are so outdated in today’s world. Almost every task I have been given at uni is either an essay, report or PowerPoint where you have to source information, use business principles (sometimes from decades ago) and regurgitate it into a strong argument. The format changes but the objective is always constant, it really doesn’t prepare you for employment.”

Porter and the BCG matrix may have influenced a great deal of marketing thinking but can we possibly justify them as being more important to understand in today’s business world than Google AdWords?

The marketing world is constantly evolving as new technologies open up new avenues for us to explore – the academic world needs to catch up or be forever left behind in irrelevance.

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