Analytics firm SAS and HSBC, the bank, have launched a data science masters degree to combat the dearth of graduates with the skills needed to use analytics to make better business decisions.
The course, to be taught at the UK’s University of Stirling, is the latest in a string of big data programs for managers launched by business schools to address the skills crunch.
The full-time degree provides students with a deep understanding of advanced analytics and its application in strategic and operational decision making. It aims to develop graduates with a highly sought-after blend of data analytics, business acumen and advanced management skills.
“Analytics is becoming more relevant to our everyday lives and there is high demand for data science skills across all sectors,” said Dr Kepa Mendibil, course leader, MSc in Data Science at the University of Stirling’s School of Management.
“We recognized that there are a lot of courses available that have a strong, technical IT component. However, there is a shortage of graduates emerging with the skills to apply the technical aspects of data science and use analytics to make sound business decisions.
“Through this course, we have focused on the practical challenges that organizations are experiencing by merging disciplines to develop a teaching program that makes the link between business, management and data analytics.”
Laurie Miles, director of analytics, SAS UK and Ireland, added: “From 2013 to 2020, the big data workforce is expected to grow by around 346,000, according to our research with The Tech Partnership, with demand for these jobs rising by 160% over the same period. A widening skills gap is set to continue into 2026 unless we provide significant investment in skills.
“The unique structure and teaching of the course will develop the next generation of data scientists that can apply data science in a business environment.”
The program gives postgraduates an opportunity to develop specialist skills in data science through modules covering fundamental areas, such as statistical modelling, statistics and predictive analytics. Students are also required to study compulsory modules in strategic management and business consultancy. There is also an opportunity to choose elective modules from finance, marketing, data science and management.
Postgraduates also carry out a consultancy project with an external organization, where they tackle a critical business challenge.
University of Stirling’s move follows several high-profile course launches by business schools in the US. Last year, Duke University’s Fuqua School of Business launched a Master of Quantitative Management degree endorsed by David Taylor, chief executive of Procter & Gamble. That followed similar announcements by prestigious US business schools, including Wharton at University of Pennsylvania, MIT’s Sloan School of Management and the Cornell College of Business.
It is also the most recent in a line of partnerships between business and business schools. Last year, London’s Imperial College Business School received £20 million in investment from the professional services firm KPMG to advanced education and research in big data analytics. KPMG also launched a masters degree focused on analytics in accounting with the US’s Fisher College of Business and Villanova School of Business.
Universities have long faced criticism that they need to develop closer ties to corporations to make their courses more relevant and their graduates more employable. Partnerships can provide the expertise and tools that business schools lack, with funding for equipment and research often thrown into the mix.
Alison McGregor, CEO of HSBC in Scotland, said: “We have been very involved in defining the [University of Stirling] program, delivering guest lectures, supporting student projects and also offering the opportunity to complete extra-curricular activities and networking opportunities at HSBC.”