Those of you who are in academic management roles have come to those positions from a variety of routes. Most commonly, you’ve moved from being a Certificate qualified teacher through to a Diploma qualified teacher, and you’ve probably picked up a specialism en route. Your specialism might be Young Learners, or Teens, or Business English, or exam classes; or a mix of these. In any case, you’ve taken the opportunity to develop further, and you are now in a role which allows you to work with teachers and students; developing your teachers and supporting your students. That’s the job you applied for, right?
If that’s so, then WHY do you find yourself spending so much time trying to master the intricacies of Excel? How on earth are you supposed to know how much it costs to develop a new course, never mind the best way to promote it so that you get clients? That’s why you have marketing staff, right? And aren’t your Finance people better placed to cost course development than you are? Because you’re an academic, not a marketer or an accountant….
If any of this sounds familiar, or like something you have muttered under your breath, it might comfort you to know you are not alone. I don’t know many academic managers who, at interview, stated a strength as ‘accurate course development costing’ or ‘comprehensive understanding of how to use social media effectively for promotional purposes’. What I have heard, a great deal, is the view that ‘marketing just don’t get it’ / ‘we have to do everything on a shoestring and it still has to be top quality’/ ‘I know this would be a great new course, but I can’t get my Director to agree to develop it’. There seems almost to be a view that academic and marketing/finance are on opposite sides, and We need to convince Them of the best way to do things.
Part of the rationale behind writing the Business Management online course was an attempt to bridge this ‘understanding gap’ and encourage academic managers to play a more active role in how their school, and its course, were promoted. Any school’s marketing objectives should reflect the school’s overall objectives, and all staff should know wat these are. As an academic manager, gaining a better understanding of these, and understanding portfolios and life cycles in product development, will help you to understand why some courses do better than others – and what you and your marketing team can do about it. How you can work together in terms of marketing and promotion to achieve those objectives; because it should, really, be a case of working together, not in opposition. And what about the scarey stuff – the financial stuff? There’s no need to train you to become an accountant; your school already has an accountant, or a Finance Department. But if you are responsible for course planning, then you need to be able to make a clear business case for any new course you are proposing, and this module helps you to do that. As one former course participant said ‘ I’d never thought that this was my job, really; but when I accurately costed a new course I was proposing with a strong business case, a costed break-even point and costed development time; I just felt my Director took it a lot more seriously, instead of me just saying I think this is a good idea.’
Marketing and Finance don’t have to be your thing; but in a fast-moving and competitive environment, academic managers can’t really ignore those aspects any more and leave them to someone else. Working with other academic managers and with tutor support, you will learn more about financial and budget planning as well as how to understand basic financial documents; you’ll also learn more about how marketing and promotion work, and how you can input into that. It might seem daunting, but it’s actually quite enjoyable, and a really useful set of skills to get under your belt. So why not come on in – the spreadsheet’s lovely!
Find out more information about the next course on business management.
Maureen McGarvey is a course tutor on our Academic Management courses and has been involved in ELT since 1974. She has been a teacher, teacher trainer, and academic manager at middle and senior management levels. She has also been Programme Manager for a range of eLearning programmes, primarily focussing on teacher development, trainer development and academic manager development. Her main areas of interest are academic manager development, CPD for teachers and integrating online and blended learning programmes with whole-school development. She is a frequent conference speaker on issues related to academic management.