Last week I wrote about Career Services and the need for degree-specific career orientation. My most successful post to date it would seem, as it has generated the greatest amount of response - I got some very interesting emails over the past week which ultimately steered me into this week’s discussion topic.

One of these emails quite provocatively questioned the relevance of MBAs in Sport Management altogether by highlighting the high turnover of Sport Management graduates in the UK in particular and the disparities between academic curriculums and current and practical industry-specific knowledge, particularly in a fast-changing environment. I wouldn’t say they were irrelevant, although I understand the point being put across and agree with it in principle.

It’s hard to argue this topic without descending into a ‘case by case’ study - like everything in life, a MBA - be it in Sport Management, Business Management, Governance Management or any other degree - will only be as relevant to any individual as they are prepared to invest in it. And I don’t mean financially. If you invest the time and the effort, it’s hard to think of any degree as ‘irrelevant’. Granted, some degrees are bound to be more relevant to specific career aspirations than others, ultimately any degree will provide you with new information - facts, context, theory. How an individual then chooses to apply this information and, furthermore, transform it into knowledge, is not something that can be collectively achieved nor taught.

Arguably, the same ‘rule’ applies for the transition into employment - no one will make the effort for you, so unless you are invested in your career, you risk falling into the abyss of unemployment. Curiously however, what I’ve observed so far into my MBA is a general lack of investment from students - and not only from my institution.

To some extent this this is likely to be linked back to varying levels of maturity, cultural backdrop and expectations regarding the institution they have enrolled with. In one of my past posts I mentioned that the majority of students in my class are international students. They have all come to the UK for this specific degree, which as far as I can tell, they seem quite invested academically. However, they have also arrived with high expectations of getting internships, although - again, to the best of my knowledge - unsurprisingly, none has yet to come to fruition.

It’s still relatively early into the academic year and this isn’t necessarily a statement on their unsuitability nor in the lack of opportunities within the industry - on a more broader sense I would argue their greatest impediment is lack of knowledge. Knowledge in the industry’s intricacies and steps they can or cannot undertake to try to maximise their chances of success in employment (and by employment I mean internships really).

At the same time, institutions - the same institutions that advertise and market their success rate as a means to draw in applications - are failing to provide any sort of career support for students. The question I then pose is: is it all not all knowledge-related? Going back to an earlier discussion on the purpose of education and the development of intellect, does the understanding of recruitment practices as a candidate not also fall into that category? I’m not trying to argue the case of spoon-feeding anyone - if the student isn’t interested, that is effectively the end of that road for them. But I do think higher education institutions do play a role in transitioning those individuals - and equally in managing their expectations - which isn’t being fulfilled. Students are - rather naively I would say - entering postgraduate degrees with expectations of getting career-changing internships, but no actual support is, in most cases (in all cases?) being offered. In this sense, any MBA can be argued to be irrelevant.

And in this case who is to blame? Students see internships as golden opportunities, but they critically fail to see countless subject-specific events happening around them which are structured for the exact purpose of personal development (and some networking of course): seminars, conferences, forums, webinars, Q&As, volunteer work, etc. It’s not a case of spending all the money you do or don’t have in attending exorbitantly high-priced events, it’s understanding that, in the lack of a support system coming from the Universities, responsibility lies with the students themselves to seek and make the most out of opportunities outside the internship spectrum.

But what of institutions, who arguably oversell their own capabilities (and influence) within the sports industry?

It’s worth noting that sports is a very peculiar industry. Because it’s only been relatively recently commercialised in Europe some of its practices are still playing catch-up, while others are still very murky. Notwithstanding, this doesn’t remove any sense of responsibility from those involved in wanting to become a part of this industry - if anything it just means an even bigger gap to bridge.


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