Management, Politics & International Relations (MPIR) is one of the most interesting and relevant courses on offer at Lancaster University. As a student at Lancaster, you are constantly doing new things and meeting new people. One question you will be asked no end is ‘What course do you do?’. When I answer ‘Management, Politics & International Relations’, the response is often a mixture of intrigue and bemusement. For many, the way in which these very different disciplines link into each other is far from obvious. But in reality, their intersection answers some of the most pertinent questions of our age.
It is no longer enough to view business and management as insular institutions, separated from and distinct from the wider world. They exist and operate within a context of a rapidly changing and interconnected world, where the established order of things is being transformed and destabilised by political phenomena: an ascendant China, rising Western populism, a Fourth Industrial Revolution fuelled by advances in artificial intelligence and online connectivity, and commerce across borders. Each of these changes present both challenges and opportunities – not just for politics, but for business, and managers will be at the forefront of facing them. Increasingly, employers desire individuals possessing not just the technical knowledge of how to manage, but also an ability to apply and adapt that knowledge to our changing world. Business takes place across borders; but an understanding of what occurs within and between those borders is essential to the practice of effectively doing business.
Okay, but where does MPIR fit in to all that?
That’s where this course comes in! I am in my first year of the programme, and my study is currently split three-ways between management, politics and international relations, and philosophy. In the management modules OWT.100 and OWT.101, you gain an understanding of the historical development of managerial practices and managerialism as a discipline, and the key issues and debates affecting management today. In Politics 100, you are introduced to the theory and practice of political philosophy, domestic politics, and international relations. In Philosophy 100, you grapple with the ethical and wider philosophical questions which underpin the theories of management and politics, and gain skills to read and write in a logical and analytical manner.
One of the most satisfying things about the course has been seeing how these three disciplines intersect with and complement one another. By analysing the moral philosophy of John Stuart Mill in philosophy, you can better understand issues surrounding business ethics and motivation in management. Learning about human resource management and ideas of organisational culture in management is contextualised by study of the liberal underpinnings of our democracy in politics. Logic and critical analysis in philosophy aids you in assessing the strength of arguments in sources for politics essays. Each aspect of the course benefits the other, and you often find yourself applying theories learned in one aspect in coursework for others.
Is grappling with so many subjects and issues at once challenging?
Of course! But university isn’t about taking an easy ride – it’s about challenging yourself, confronting difficult issues, and constantly bettering yourself. MPIR certainly enables this. Although you encounter many new and complex ideas, the teaching at Lancaster equips you well to deal with them. Complementing lectures, each week you have seminars for management, politics, and philosophy. These are taken in small groups with dedicated tutors who you have week in and week out. In these seminars, you get an opportunity to discuss and debate what you have learned; critically analyse the reading you are set; prepare and plan for coursework; and discuss any difficulties or points of interest you have with a knowledgeable tutor. In addition to this, we have regular meetings with Bogdan, our course director, who discusses the course and our progress in-depth with us in a friendly environment. You are also assigned an academic advisor who will stay with you for the duration of your time at Lancaster University and discuss any aspect of your study and university life with you on a one-on-one basis.
What about Year 2 of the course and beyond?
There are two things in particular that I’m really looking forward to about the later stages of this degree. Firstly, there is the greater degree of choice and flexibility in Year 2. Alongside compulsory modules in Business Ethics and Social Research Methods, there are a huge range of modules in management and politics and international relations to choose from. I’m especially intrigued by some of the modules in entrepreneurship and marketing on offer as these would present whole new endeavours for me. Year 4 also offers a great deal of choice in this respect. But first…
Year 3 is a year in industry. We’ll start preparing for this soon with the Management 150 module, where we’ll learn how to write a good CV, undertake mock interviews with large organisations, and look at a range of employability skills. I’m undecided on where to do my work placement at present: it could be a small business, a large multinational, an NGO, or even the government. Wherever I go, I’m looking forward to applying the knowledge from Years 1 and 2 in a practical management context – and of course making a bit of money, too!