In October, Imperial College Business School welcomes the first cohort of students pursuing its newest degree that’s been created entirely to meet all-around demand: a Bachelor of Science in Economics, Finance and Data Science, that combines the subjects of data science, analytics and coding with a rigorous education in finance and economics.
The hope is it creates a new wave of professionals, economists, policy experts, business leaders and researcher to address “the big issues of our time,” the UK school said in its announcement of the new degree, through using Big Data to solve complex business and financial problems. Imperial bills the three-year undergrad program as a first of its kind in the UK. Though the combination of such core subjects rises to meet a major trend seen across business education for years where courses, concentrations and entire master’s programs center around business analytics.
Not to mention STEM majors, particularly computer engineering and computer science, still continue to dominate higher education as some of the best college majors by being the fastest growing and most diverse career paths.
‘THE SAME STORY’ ACROSS VAST FIELDS
Making Imperial’s new degree all the more relevant is what the university heard from major industry employers across vast fields.
The program’s director and lead developer Professor Pedro Rosa Dias says that during several conversations with hedge funds and tech employers and consulting firms and the World Bank, “we heard the same story time and again.”
Employers want to hire finance experts and economists. They want to hire skilled data scientists. But employers express that rarely, Rosa Dias says, do they find people with a strong understanding of both fields, making the skill that bridges the two in “very, very high demand.”
That’s likely why many schools have either launched or announced the launch of like-minded programs. The French school IÉSEG School of Management in partnership with RUBIKA, a higher ed institute purely dedicated to video game and animation creation, recently announced a new Bachelor in Management and Tech Design. MIT has a bachelor’s degree in computer science, economics and data science, offered jointly through its economics and engineering departments. The University of Southampton offers a three-year degree in Economics with Data Science.
WHAT CLASSES LOOK LIKE IN THE NEW MULTIFACETED DEGREE
The degree took all of two years to develop after plenty of thought and conversation among industry employers, Rosa Dias mentions in an interview with Poets&Quants.
The brand-new program aimed at having a small cohort, but, Rosa Dias says, the applications numbers far exceeded their expectations, and applicants hail from a variety of backgrounds and countries. After an in-depth selection process that included one-on-one interviews with applicants, acceptance letters have been sent out. With the deadline for admittance fast approaching, Rosa Dias says he is still unsure of what the incoming cohort will look in terms of demographics and student body population.
Imperial has been around since 1907. It’s a science-focused university that has several campuses in and around London, its main situating in South Kensington. Tuition is often higher for non-EU students and on-campus housing is guaranteed for first-year students, while limited for returning students. The student population is made-up of around 17,000 students, with nearly 60 percent of its students being from outside the UK.
The degree offers core classes and electives in all three areas. For economics, classes covering statistics and macro & microeconomics make up the curriculum, as well as a slate of electives including Game Theory, Energy Economics and Advanced Macroeconomics. For finance, students will take Accounting, Corporate Finance and Capital Markets, and Operations Research to name a few. Imperial will offer finance electives like Asset Pricing, Risk Management and Climate Change and Finance.
The data science courses consist of concepts around developing an understanding about Machine Learning and cloud commuting. Some sample electives include Advanced Machine Learning, Text-mining in the Social Sciences, and Marketing Analytics.
DESIRES OF THE INCOMING STUDENT BODY
The program closely reflects not only the needs of employers, but the desires of today’s business students, who want a learning experience that is both personalized and highly interdisciplinary.
“Students from this generation, they place high value on that possibility of doing different things in very different areas [rather] than following a predefined career path,” Rosa Dias says.
The new degree will employ an “issue-based” approach where students will be introduced to fundamental economic concepts through discussions of the pressing issues of our day. Many of the topics, such as climate change and global inequality, are of great importance to Gen Z students.
While Rosa Dias emphasized the program’s “quantitative core,” he says students will also gain the softer skills critical to success in the business world. Over the entire course of the three-year program, students will be required to take an multi-year class called Essential Skills, designed by Ileana Stigliani, a professor of Design and Innovation at Imperial College. The course will teach students how to tell compelling stories and approach problems they’ve never seen before.
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