A New Breed of Marketing Graduates?

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The University of Kelaniya, my seat of higher education, sadly was never considered the ‘cream of the crop’ in Sri Lanka when I attended; certainly not the Departments of Humanities and the Social Sciences! After listening to decades of unproductive lip service on the need for marketable graduates, I encountered a remarkable transformation in higher education at my very own university.

I witnessed a complete shift in attitude, professionalism and drive, among academics and students at a launch of The Certified Professional Marketing Graduates (CPMG) Program organized by the Department of Marketing and Management.  It’s one of the many projects implemented by the Ministry of Higher Education under the Higher Education for the Twentieth Century (HETC) Project, with support from the World Bank. It was not just the launch of this new degree program that moved me, but it was the total quality and professionalism in the event management. It was indeed knowledge in action.

For years, the tale of woe by the corporate sector in Sri Lanka was that the graduates produced by the local universities were not employable. The business management graduates who wished to join the corporate sector, almost always had to also complete a professional examination either in finance or marketing if they were to be even considered for a career. Additionally, the concept of soft skills such as communications and leadership expected by the corporate sector was also totally lacking among these job seekers. Sadly, course work in our universities was never developed with employer expectations or needs in mind. Alas! The tide seems to be turning, and seems to be turning fast!

The young academics have obviously realized that they should be making the change that they wished to see in their respective faculties and departments. It is clear that they are driving this change with pride and commitment, aptly supported by the management of the university.

Sitting at the launch event, it was heartening to listen to the process that the academic team of CPMG had grappled with for fifteen months. The preparation of the most comprehensive outcome based curriculum for this new four year degree program, will now be compatible to a professional marketing qualification; a laudable outcome of a great team effort between the academics and potential employers. Continuous interaction and engagement with the private sector during the preparatory process has helped the young academic team to develop this new curriculum to ‘craft’ graduates who will be capable, confident and competent to join the work force. In addition to the theoretical knowledge that would be imparted, the teaching methods prescribed in this degree program will make sure that the students develop not only knowledge, but also skills and the right attitude, which are some of the  most important attributes sought by the private sector.

In order to make this course a success, the creators of this degree program have broken many barriers found in the local university system. Teaching at night and on weekends to encourage students to work while studying is truly a remarkable step in the right direction. Developing the four year curriculum, based on current job profiles is yet another innovation. Each year, the content will be focused on a specific marketing profile; Marketing Associate, Marketing Analyst, Marketing Specialist and Marketing Strategist. This helps the undergraduates to realize their desired performance under each course unit.

These four levels would be built on eight pillars; Accounting and Finance, Quantitative Aspects, Digital Marketing and IT, Branding and Communications, Consumer Behaviour and Research, Applied Marketing, Business Environment and Management. The outcome of this process would clearly mold a fully-fledged marketing professional who could step into the real world of Marketing Management with knowledge and confidence.     

These observations of mine are just the tip of the iceberg in this new and innovative path that the Faculty of Management at the University of Kelaniya has embarked on.

We are now seen as the best management faculty among the Universities in the country – cream of the crop!” said a beaming head of a department to me, when I said how pleasantly surprised I was to witness this amazing progress in my own university where I studied thirty years ago!

Authors

Sandya Salgado

Senior External Affairs Officer

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