vocational

The ‘Harrods’ degree: Gimmick or great idea?

Harrods are introducing a degree in the art of sales.  Staff will be able to take a 2-year part-time course while they work at the store.  But will it be recognised as a true degree by other employers?

Staff who take the degree, in conjunction with Anglia Ruskin, will pay no tuition fees or any other costs.  Other than agree to remain working at Harrods throughout the degree and for a period after completion, there are no other major barriers to gaining the qualification.

photo by raindog

photo by raindog

What would other employers think of the degree on a person’s CV?

Lisa Harris teaches online marketing at Southampton and she told me that this type of degree will become more popular.  She said, “Two-year degrees look the way of the future to me.  They are more attractive to business sponsors and combine work and study”.

Community Manager, Jas Dhaliwal is also positive about these degrees.  He said, “I suspect that other firms will continue this trend”.

They may have a point.  More degrees like this would be a needed source of income for universities.  And with the student population ever growing in diversity, people want greater flexibility in how they can study.  Business based degrees are a feasible alternative route.

The Harrods association gives the degree a reason to talk about it.  For now, a big brand association is a newsworthy gimmick.  I’m sure graduates would state their degree as a BA in Sales from Anglia Ruskin and only make the Harrods link beyond that.

There are already vocational degrees that work with local businesses to produce graduates who are relevant to that workplace.  For instance, Bucks New University runs a foundation degree in Business Management for staff at the bed specialist Dreams.  Ruth Farwell, vice-chancellor at Bucks New Uni, said: “Whilst we recognise the impetus behind the decision to allow companies such as McDonald’s to award their own qualifications, we believe that it is better for employers to partner with universities in initiatives such as this one.”

The first graduates of the Dreams foundation degree came through in 2009.  This type of vocational qualification is, therefore, not new.  Over four million vocational qualifications were awarded last year alone.  And today is VQ Day, especially for vocational qualifications.  There is clearly a big market.

Some of these degrees are not for everyone.  Indeed, Harrods and Dreams only offer the degrees to their own staff.  However, universities need to diversify and attract business sponsors, as Lisa Harris has mentioned.  Interest in alternatives to current degree routes will come from both prospective students and from businesses.

What of the future?  These are specialised vocational qualifications.  If more businesses took these degrees on, would current graduates need to work toward another degree once in employment?  Would any degree be enough, or would we begin to see people in the workplace with several degrees due to obligatory business training?

I don’t think there are any proper answers to those questions yet, but we may need to start thinking about it soon.

Do you see these business degrees gaining in popularity or are you convinced they are still a gimmick?