International Partnerships and Business Coordinator at University of Salford, Simon Ireland attended IWBAS2016 at TAMK in March, not only as a Lecturer, but also to discuss a bold collaboration project initiated by the two universities. The double degree programme between Salford Business School and TAMK’s School of Business and Services was successfully approved on the 21st of April. Currently focused on the Tourism and International Business area, Simon breaks down the ongoing process and explains how students can benefit from taking the dual programme.
Simon, this is not your first time at TAMK, if I’m right.
No, I’ve been here many times. We started off running Erasmus intensive programme, two-week courses for students from here, my university and Jaume I University in Spain. When we brought students here, we did various activities with them. And we’ve taken your students to Salford, then everybody to Spain and we cycled round for ten years doing that.
We initially started with 60 students altogether (20 from each institution) and then, it reduced through time due to logistical reasons. It was still quite a large number. Now that Erasmus changed the policy on these intensive programmes, it hasn’t been logistically suitable to do it anymore.
But at the moment, we’re working on a collaboration of having a double degree with TAMK. We’re looking at a double degree in International Business and International Business with Tourism.
How is the preparation going for the double degree programme?
We’re really at the closing end of the process now. Once it gets approved, we can start exchanging students on that course in September, this year. Basically, it’s a combination for a TAMK student who has studied for two years here and then they would come to Salford to join our funded graduate programme for one year and once they completed that, they come back and finish off the research dissertation thesis. And that would give them both awards, so they would get a degree from the University of Salford and one degree from TAMK.
How would you describe Salford Business School to TAMK students?
Salford Business School is quite a large school within the UK. The university itself has about 20,000 students and within the Business School, we probably have about 5,000 students altogether. There’s about 70 academic staff working in the school. We do a full range all the way from pre-undergraduate and undergraduate to post-graduate, master programmes of different areas and PhD research. A full service business school. My area is Tourism and International Business. Most of my role is actually dealing with international partners at the moment, even though I’m still a functioning academic in the school. I get to travel around the world quite a lot because of that.
Tell me more about the partnership between the two universities.
It grows as the relationship grows. There are different things that can come out of these relationships. But with these things you have to progress at a natural pace. You can’t do too many activities in one go. So we’re focusing on the double degree at the moment. The double degree is almost like a progression agreement between the two institutions.
Clearly, coming from a UK university, we have a very different approach to education. Students are paying very significant fees in UK. And it really changes a lot the nature of how an organization functions and rules. So it’s quite a great pleasure to come here and see the relationships the academic have with the senior management, because the relationships in the UK are a lot more formal, a lot more structured.
One of the hot topics discussed during IWBAS was the attention deficiency in classrooms. What are your thoughts on the matter?
I can appreciate that. I think it depends on the nature of the student most of the time. Some can see having all these virtual learning environments and these electronics resources at their fingertips as being possibly a fallback, if they’re not working as hard as they should do, not engaging as much as they should do. As an academic, you know that those pieces of information are only there for support to what you actually do. And I think the need to engage a student is always going to be there. You need that sort of drive and attitude to deliver material that makes the students want to come, because they’re the ones to benefit the most. I strongly believe that the good students are the ones that will still engage and use the material as it should be, as a support material, rather than relying on it as a source. Sometimes, I think people have this misconception that putting a PowerPoint presentation somewhere is distance learning. So I think that when you consider the differences between those two, between traditional and distance learning, then materials are completely different.
There is an expectation from this generation that everything should be available to them at all times, they want an instant response from the society. I think it’s a learning process for anybody that, as availability of information and getting what you want appears to become easier, than there’s a stronger reliance that this should be expanded. When people venture out into the real world, they realize that whether they’re dealing with companies, businesses, energy suppliers, housing people, everything, they’re going to end up with the same issue. It’s a learning process for the student, rather than the other way around. There is a need to adapt to this change. The change is everywhere.
Though international weeks are meant for learning, they also create memories. What is your strongest memory from your visits to Finland?
When I first visited here, I was taken out to cross country skiing and then, we sat down by a fire and grilled sausages. That, to me, is a memory that will never go. It’s part of the whole education experience, because it’s part of the relationship development. So that’s probably one of my strongest memories.
Any life advice you give to your students?
Just relax and be happy. The world is a difficult place and you can hit challenges every single day, and everybody does. It’s the way you deal with them that makes a difference. If you just take one step at the time, things will be a lot easier than panicking, getting worried or getting stressed and try to attack things head on. Quite often, you just need to stop for a minute, relax and think: “I can deal with it.”.
Text & photo: Andruta Ilie
Note: IWBAS 2016 was the International Week event organized by TAMK’s School of Business and Services.