“Major” and “Minor” Decisions

Okay, I’ll admit it… I’m a bit of a nerd. I’m also horribly indecisive. And a chronic worrier. That combination of traits meant that for me, personally, it was very difficult to decide what I wanted to study post A-level.  I enjoyed all of my subjects and simply wasn’t sure which one to choose.  I couldn’t imagine abandoning any of them. Equally, the thought of a future career seemed to loom large – how could I make sure that I gained all the necessary “employability” skills? What if I picked the wrong course and spent three years regretting it?

£9,250 a year sure feels like a lot of money if you don’t get it right.

Eventually, I decided to take some time out and worked for a while at a school, where my former boss noted my enthusiasm during the school’s academy re-branding, as well as my aptitude for updating the school’s social media and blog – and suggested I study Marketing. Nonetheless, even this decision still felt pretty terrifying. I hadn’t studied business at Sixth Form. What if I found it too challenging? What if it was too dry? Or exponentially worse… what if there was too much maths? It felt like such a gamble…

Luckily, Lancaster offers the perfect solution for those as risk-averse as me.

In your first year, in most degree programmes, you’re not restricted to studying just one subject, you can pick three! Yes, you heard right… three! But hang on, before you start panicking about having to re-write your entire personal statement – the process is really simple. Although you apply for your “major” subject during the UCAS process, once you arrive at Lancaster, you are then able to choose modules from two additional subjects – known as your “minors”.  This allows you to keep your options open. As well as studying your major subject, you can opt to try something new, to pick something that complements it… or merely to continue with a subject that you enjoyed at A Level. If you find that you prefer your minor subject, you then have the option to swap courses at the end of the year.

As it turns out, I needn’t have worried about struggling with my Marketing course: I’m really enjoying it. However, I’ve found the topics that I’ve studied in my minor subjects – Sociology and Media and Cultural Studies – to have been incredibly relevant; really enhancing my understanding of Marketing.

For example, in MCS, we’ve recently been exploring the theme of power in the media; looking at the dominance of corporations such as Google and Facebook and Viacom, thinking about the influence that they have over the content that we see. For example, did you know Google is used for 95.3% of search on mobile in the UK, whilst Google and Facebook between them owned 9 of the top 10 most used Apps in the UK in 2015? Although not blindingly obvious at first, this has big implications for the world of marketing. When these organisations have such a wide potential-consumer reach and high revenue, it can perhaps make it more difficult for companies to demand change regarding issues such as brand safety and inappropriate content. Will Google really notice if M&S withdraw their adverts from YouTube?

Studying the representation of minority groups in a previous block also made me think about how well companies are representing and meeting the specific needs of those such as the disabled, those from a BME background or elderly people in their offerings.

In Sociology meanwhile, we’ve been looking at how human behaviour has changed and evolved over time. Observations such as an increased focus on individual responsibility for health in society, or a change towards a faster, more individualistic pace of lifestyle are definitely relevant to marketing – just look at how well McDonald’s has adapted to these developments. Marketers constantly need to consider how consumer needs and lifestyles may change in the future.

But it’s not just from an academic perspective that I feel studying minor subjects has enriched my university experience – it’s also allowed me to develop a brilliantly diverse range of friends. It means I can go from geeking-out about Nike’s latest communications campaign with one group of mates, to debating the effects of neo-liberalism with another. It means I’m in classes with people studying English and Economics and Computing and French and Politics. Luckily, it also means I’ve been able to make friends with some wonderfully kind people who study Maths as well as Marketing…

Ultimately, the minor system allows you to explore your options. You can pick a subject because you think it will enhance your employability skills, because you were strong at it at A Level or because you’ve always fancied trying it and never had the chance. Whatever you pick though, you can guarantee it will make your first year at Lancaster just that little bit more enjoyable. You can always change your mind next year…

My First Exam in the UK

As I entered the registration hall in the first week, my heart pounded heavily. I did not know what to do, where to go. Was it too late to go back? Of course, it was. I was not only in a different country but also in a different continent. At that point in time, I was just following everyone because they seemed to know what they were doing and where they were going. We ultimately reached the final destination of the day, the Management School: The place that LUMS postgraduates absolutely worship. The Hub, the Lecture Theatres, the meeting rooms – I had never seen a place like that. I was sitting with a few of my classmates and they all were talking about Lancaster and the University as if they had known it for ages. As it turned out…they did. They had all done their undergraduates at Lancaster University and I had no idea what was happening around me anymore. I felt overwhelmed and anxious and I kept quiet, taking it all in.

As days passed by, we got busier with lectures and assignments but at the same time, we grew closer to each other. The journey had begun, and we spent the days learning and the nights exploring the University. Soon, the first module was over and so was the second and before we realised, it was exam time. With just a week left for the exam, the late-night excursions had taken a halt and the late-night coffees had replaced them to ensure that we were burning the midnight oil. There was chaos and confusion everywhere. This was a big thing. It was the first module and we all wanted to leave a mark. Being from different educational backgrounds, we all were facing challenges. Most of us had never studied business modules before and jumping right into Marketing and thinking like a Marketing Manager was difficult. The exam was case based. We were provided with a case and had to scrutinise it well before the exam. In the exam, we were asked questions based on the case and had to answer them in an essay style. This was very new, especially for someone like me. My last essay-based exam was in primary school and being from CBSE board (Central Board for Secondary Education, India), I was cut out for point to point answers. Luckily my lecturer was a sweetheart. She gave us precise directions of what she needed and also made us practice with a mini case in the class. On top of that, we were also provided with past paper questions. All these resources ensured that we were fully equipped to face the exam.

On the final day of the examination, I prayed to all the Gods and reminded myself that I would be fine because of all the group studying sessions I had with my classmates and the resources that were provided by my professor. I went for the exam and “answered the questions”, precisely as mentioned by my lecturer and as it turned out, I managed to get a distinction!



Adjusting to degree-level study

As both a mature student and somebody who’d never studied business before, I was naturally more than just slightly apprehensive about starting a Marketing degree at a university as prestigious and well regarded as Lancaster.  What if I failed to understand any of the lecture content? What if I found the work too challenging? What if everyone else was 1000 times more knowledgeable than me?

I’m relieved to say – up to now at least! – that my fears have gone completely unfounded. Although the Marketing course is indeed challenging, it’s challenging in a good way. I’m really enjoying the fact that it gives me the opportunity to think critically and broaden my horizons.

Right from the very first assignment, we’re encouraged to challenge the formulaic approach to Marketing that is often presented at A Level – or in my case, in traditional Marketing textbooks. Instead, we’re encouraged to see Marketing as a continually evolving process, where creativity, flexibility and innovation are key. In my view, this is something that is becoming increasingly important in today’s corporate environment, where both consumer tastes and technology are changing rapidly.

As well as questioning traditional schools of thought, the degree is also allowing me to challenge my own beliefs. As part of a recent topic on marketing regulation, in our seminars, we’ve been preparing for a debate around the introduction of the sugar tax.

Now, as someone who identifies very much on the left side of the political spectrum, I’d expected to be very much in favour of the sugar tax – after all, anything that encourages people to live healthily can only be a good thing, right? However, after my group were assigned the role of Coca Cola in the debate, I’ve found my views continuously evolving. I’ve been able to appreciate not only the idea of consumer choice and the efforts made by corporations to increase the variety of sugar-free options available, but also to see the limitations of the policy in regards to consumer education.

The interactive nature of the Marketing seminars is something that I’m really enjoying too. Although the idea of sharing your thoughts with the group can be a daunting prospect at first, I’m finding that listening to the ideas of other students is really helping to consolidate my learning. Taking part in group projects – such as the Coca Cola debate – not only helps us to develop skills relevant to the workplace, but also allows us to get to better get to know our coursemates.   Sometimes, seminars can even be, dare I say it, fun!

I’m really looking forward to finding out what the next term has in store – and seeing which of my pre-conceived ideas will be challenged next!

Learning Opportunities at Lancaster University

Lancaster University Management School provides opportunities to learn outside of the conventional classroom based learning, creating a learning environment well suited to various styles of learner.

One such learning experience that I have taken part in during my second year of study is a management module, which involves working with a live client, to aid in resolving a real-world problem from the organisation.

The module is competitive from the beginning, with each group competing for their organisation of choice from a list of business (local and some further afield) who have partnered with the University to work with Management School students. This involves producing a ‘project bid’, in which the team must illustrate their understanding of their chosen client’s issues, as well as the team strengths to create an argument demonstrating why they should be allowed to work with the particular client. Once the bids have been evaluated, those who presented the strongest arguments are awarded the clients they requested to work with, and all other teams are allocated the remaining organisations.

Luckily for me, our project bid was strong enough to be awarded the client that we most wanted to work with. This was a small, local charity which meant our experience was very intensive and our involvement was perceived as being particularly important to the client.

Working with a charity was particularly rewarding, and a personal highlight was visiting the charity at the start of the module to learn more about the client. This was a great opportunity to speak to stakeholders and staff members to find out first hand important information about the problems faced. It was also great to be in a learning environment outside of University, in a real working environment and facing real organisational issues.

The project did not come without its challenges, though. An important part of the process for my group was to collect primary research, which involved approaching local people in the town centre. This proved to be more difficult than we had ever imagined, and encouraging people to speak to us wasn’t exactly easy!

The module runs over two terms, and is an intensive, hands on, real life experience. Working outside of the classroom acts as an opportunity to fully understand and experience the discrepancies between theory and practice, and understand the subject (in my case, management consultancy) in a much more in depth way compared to simply learning through lectures and seminars. Not only this, but this experience is a great CV booster – you can demonstrate real life skills working in a professional manner with genuine clients who have sought your help.

The assessment for this module involves an individual essay, which acts as an opportunity to reflect on the learning experience and how your understanding of the subject has changed with exposure to a real world consultancy issue. There is also a group report and presentation to the client, allowing you to showcase your hard work. The presentation is primarily for the client but moderated by the module tutors and lecturers, and therefore it really requires you to integrate your theoretical knowledge and practical experience in order to appeal to the different audiences.

I chose to study this module because I wanted to gain hands on experience whilst learning, and that is exactly what it provided. It truly is a one of a kind learning experience which inarguably throws you in at the deep end. Nevertheless, the experience is invaluable, providing real work experience and aiding in your academic study. It is an excellent opportunity to develop your interpersonal skills, and be able to show your understanding of a University subject in the real world.

Why I Chose Lancaster

Applying for University can be daunting – it presents what for many is the first major ‘fork in the road’ moment in life. Two years ago, I had concluded my nationwide University tour -the infamous hunt for the perfect degree programme and perfect University that my friends and I had become so familiar with – and settled on my decision.

I remember vividly two University open days – Leeds and Lancaster. Both excellent institutes. Both very high up the league tables for Marketing (first and second). Both fiercely competing for applicants, and I was torn. Leeds was everything the inner teenager in me wanted – the bright lights of the big city, far away from home, a reputable night out. Lancaster appealed to me rationally – a safer city, closer to home and most importantly, first in the country for my course.

I fought with myself for months, visited both applicant days and, eventually, firmed Lancaster after speaking to a student ambassador on the open day who assured me Lancaster met both needs – the very best teaching quality and the great student night out that my heart desired.

Not only this, but in my months of torment in deciding on which University to firm, I eventually weighed up the pros and cons of each University, and Lancaster came out on top by a country mile.

Firstly, the Lancaster University Management School rankings are incredibly high – consistently ranked within the top 10 Business Schools in the UK and within the top 1% globally. This gives makes me a student of one of the best Business Schools in the world, which is completely invaluable when it comes to applying for jobs, internships and placements.

Which leads nicely onto my next point – Lancaster has some seriously impressive links with companies who offer industrial placements for University students. As a placement year is something I have always wanted to complete as part of my degree, the way Lancaster approaches this was a hugely influential factor in my decision to come here. I found at other Universities, the general attitude towards industrial placements was ‘you can do one if you want, but you’re on your own in organising it’. Lancaster could not be more different. The Management School has a dedicated careers service specifically for placement students, runs drop-in sessions and lectures, mock assessment centres, interviews, psychometric tests and CV and cover letter workshops to ensure that every student is fully and completely prepared for both the application process and the actual work place. This is something I really value and having such a strong support network throughout the entire process made the idea of a placement year seem a lot less daunting.

The final major benefit of Lancaster which really swayed my decision was the campus. I come from a relatively small area and have never experienced living in a city (in fact, the only time I ever used a bus was when visiting family friends in Edinburgh – talk about country bumpkin!). As a result, I wasn’t convinced about how much I would really enjoy city life – I felt like I would embrace it for the first term but the novelty of not being within walking distance of everything (literally, everything) as I was at home would quickly wear off. Lancaster was the perfect in-between – just out of the city, I would have access to the city life with the comfort of a campus bubble to retreat to.

Here’s me visiting my accommodation just after A level results day when I knew I’d made it, not knowing how my University experience would unfold or where the next four years would take me.


Having been here for a year now, I am confident I made the right decision with Lancaster.