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The Magnusficent seven: how to choose a management degree

September 25, 2017

I have the pleasure to attend several university open days each year, as well as university fairs in the UK and abroad. A recurring theme is that many parents and young applicants are rightly confused by the diversity of business and management degrees on offer. Although some people enjoy leafing through the pages of the booklets, are happy working against the grain of the index, and are happy to surf web pages, for others more prospectus words and more web pages do little to reduce their confusion.

My own practice is to go back to basics and ask the following questions, the answers to which help me identify the Lancaster programmes of study most likely to meet the stated needs of the prospective applicant. It usually works, and many find it downright helpful. Here is my set of seven diagnostic questions, in no particular order.

The bits in bold text signify what I consider to be the seven key domains to consider. Other approaches work too, and this is not an institutional directive. Views expressed are my own.


Do you already know that you want to study a single management discipline, such as marketing or economics? If so, then go and speak to that department.

Supplementary while we are talking: If so, which and do you know much about what this thing involves? Tell me what you read in this area? Why are you interested in this?

Do you want to study a generalist inter-disciplinary management degree? The rest of this post is for you.

Flexibility of syllabus

How important is it for you to have a lot of choice over what you study?

Do you want to develop a specialism in your degree?

Note: Some people really like the idea of choice. They may be looking for a subject to fall in love with. Like many institutions, we offer programmes that allow a huge amount of choice (as well as offering help to navigate that choice throughout study, perhaps devising pathways, such as the habit of taking an entrepreneurship module every year). At the extreme, I call this the buffet approach. There is the danger of choosing a very strange set of modules however, just as one could put hummus on chocolate cake at a buffet, hence the need for some guidance to ensure that foundational prerequisites are studied which enable more advanced modules to be taken later on.

Do you want to study a balanced programme of modules from across the spectrum of management domains that has been chosen by the university?

Note: This will be a proven combination that works. I call this the set menu approach. Such schemes may also have the added feature of a professional body accreditation. Some people are drawn to this format. The LUMS BBA is an example.


Are you confident in your ability to study mathematics-based subjects at university?

Do you wish to largely avoid further study of mathematics-based subjects?

Note: Schools sometimes do a very bad job here. Even in 2017 I have been meeting young people, especially young women, who have been told by their school that because they ‘only’ got a B at GCSE they should not study for an A-Level in mathematics. Worse yet is the young woman, whose accompanying mother confessed to being a maths teacher, who had been told that she was not good at maths, despite getting a B at GCSE. I suspect that some schools may be playing games in response to perverse incentives and that this is not in the long term interests of all of their pupils.


Are you already fluent in a second European language (for us, that means French, German, Italian or Spanish)?

Would you like to study and work in a second country as part of your degree, and to do so whilst being taught and assessed in a second language? This is for committed and motivated linguists who wish a management degree.

Would you like the option to begin to study a language whilst at Lancaster?

Note: if you have no other language, then why not? If it helps then I give you my permission to get stuck into learning a second human language, such as Portuguese or British Sign Language, or a computer language, such as Python or Java.

Work placement and industrial internship year

Do you wish to spend your third year on placement with an employer, returning to Lancaster to complete your degree in your fourth year?

Supplementary: if not, then why not?

Time overseas during your studies – study abroad

Do you want your degree to allow you the choice to spend your second year in a partner institution overseas?

Supplementary: if not, …

Finally, the inscrutable x-factor

Sat in class, you may often be in a mixed group alongside students enrolled on multiple degree schemes. How then do we understand properly which of these tribes will fit you best? Can we discuss your hopes for the composition of your peer group, your individual sense of volition, are you a self-starter or do you need lots of direction, do you approach university study as an ambitious quest or an exploratory voyage? Your answers to these questions will help me to guide you.

Then, go to the pages that describe in more detail the programmes which seem to fit you and work from there. It might feel more like you are in control of the process than you did before. Email me for a consult if all else fails.



Spring cleaning the gym

April 13, 2015

After a long winter making do with walking the dog and avoiding the black dog of SAD, I have at last tidied the gym in my garage.  My kettlebell handles had developed some patchy surface rust, which thirty minutes’ work with a wire cup brush and a power drill sorted out in a very satisfying way.


Presents of mind

December 8, 2010


Editor: Guest post by Jan Goss, mindfulness meditation practitioner and coach.  I bumped into Jan by pure chance.  One day, my head full of ideas about researching the issues of stress and well-being in small business, I walked out of my office and stared straight at a small poster seeking participants for a study into mindfulness, and its application in work.  Since that day, Jan and I have worked together with entrepreneurs, and she has introduced them – and me – to mindfulness as an approach to life. 

‘…yesterday is history.  Tomorrow is a mystery.  Today is a gift.  That is why they call it the present.’  (Eleanor Roosevelt)

You can have anything you want. It all starts with your mind…Indeed! 

Al Kavadlo’s entry on the blog really resonated with me. Yes, I believe it is possible to have anything that we want. I have read this philosophy consistently over the past 15 years, in the ‘Cosmic Ordering’ of Babel Mohr, the ‘Heal Your Body’ philosophy of Louise Hay and more recently, and somewhat ‘explosively’, in ‘The Secret’ of Rhonda Byrne. The underlying message from all of these best-selling authors is where focus goes, energy flows. Our thoughts are constantly creating our experience. Everything begins with a thought and the amount of attention and ‘air-time’ that we give a thought is fundamental to its potency. 

Have you ever heard the expression ‘be careful what you wish for’? Much of the time we are making unconscious ‘wishes’ in the form of thought. Thoughts are creative. They are a necessary step in the process of evolution. Indeed, everything begins with a thought. It therefore makes sense that we become aware of what we are thinking and where our attention is focused. 

With heightened awareness it becomes possible to see the effects that our thoughts are having on our life experience, on our emotional state and on other people. It also becomes possible to see the effects that other people and their thoughts are having on us and with this vital awareness we are able to discern whether those ‘thoughts’ are contributing positively or negatively to life. 

The good news is we can train the mind with a simple and effective tool known as mindfulness practice, a tried and tested method. Research into the effects of mindfulness repeatedly shows that we are able, not only to reduce stress (and who doesn’t need some of that) but also alter our basic brain chemistry. The prefrontal cortex of the brain has been shown to be ‘plastic’, it can continue to change and develop at any age. Research involving MRI technology has proved that with regular mindfulness practice the brain actually alters shape, a term known as ‘neuroplasticity’. 

Harvard-trained doctor and Clinical Professor of Psychiatry, Daniel Siegel states ‘Mindfulness is a form of mental activity that trains the mind to become aware of awareness itself and to pay attention to one’s own intention’. It is a method of concentration and focus on one’s self, from a kind and curious perspective. It allows us to become aware of our habitual and ‘unconscious’ thoughts and behaviours. It is an enlightening practice that incorporates myriad benefits. 

Mindfulness practice can be done whilst sitting, walking, eating, listening, speaking, studying or working. The list is endless. The skill of concentrating awareness is highly transferable and of paramount importance if we are to succeed at any task. Its cultivation is especially needed in these times of ‘sensory overload’. 

So, in response to Al’s blog entry, yes physical health starts with a thought, but so too does the whole of our life experience…

The Fitness of Young People – Time to Re-examine the Kennedy Spirit?

December 2, 2010

‘A Kennedy march is a long-distance march of 50 miles or 80 kilometers (note that 50 miles is actually approximately 80.45 kilometers), named after former American president John F. Kennedy’s following words uttered in 1963: “I think most American people are so weak, they can’t even walk fifty miles within twenty hours”. Kennedy marches have since been organised to prove John F. Kennedy wrong in this pessimistic view.’ (source:

There has been a recent flurry of media coverage of the failings of physical education in our schools.  It is a good time to look back into earlier times.  In the postwar United States, the health and fitness of young people became a prominent political concern.  Changes in diet, work, and leisure were seen as threats to vigour, strength and fitness. 

The former warrior President Eisenhower knew that there had been concern about the physical condition of conscripts in both World War II and the Korean War.  During his first term, attention to the problem spiked when a report by Kraus and Hirschland demonstrated that US children lagged behing those from other nations in terms of fitness.  Eisenhower inaugurated the President’s Council on Youth Fitness in 1956.  The Council never gained traction during his presidency, its focus remained contested, and fitness itself lacked definition.  Though he established the Council, Eisenhower seldom spoke about fitness.  In contrast, John F. Kennedy’s brought a totally different approach to the problem of fitness and the role of the Council.

Kennedy used the fitness issue to capitalise upon his relative youth, which was in other areas a cause for jibes about inexperience.  It suited his political messages concerning preparedness, which resonated with contemporary anxiety about weakness in the Cold War era.  Apocryphally, it was said that the Soviets did not take coffee breaks, they took exercise breaks instead!  Kennedy made it clear that physical fitness was a concern of government, and he made frequent reference to the subject in his speeches, and he gave the Council new authority.  One of Kennedy’s interventions led to the fifty-mile march gaining national prominence.

In an earlier time, Theodore Roosevelt had challenged U.S. Marine officers to cover a 50 mile mach in twenty hours.  Kennedy brought Roosevelt’s executive order to the attention of General David M. Shoup, then commandant of the Marines.  Shoup was told to present the old order as his own find, and to propose that contemporary Marines should be tasked to complete the challenge.  Shoup agreed, and Kennedy indicated that assuming Marines could match the fitness of their forebears, he would then turn the spotlight towards White House staff.  White House press secretary Pierre Salinger understood well that “look[ing] into the matter personally”, as the President suggested, would mean him walking fifty miles himself.  The portly Salinger never accepted the challenge, humorously pointing to Attorney General Robert F. Kennedy’s own fifty miler as evidence that the administration was fit for office.   President’s Kennedy’s brother had made the distance on impulse in 1963, marching out of his office wearing leather Oxford shoes, striding through Washington slush and snow (and would it not bring joy to our hearts this December to hear of our politicians tramping home to their constituencies, on a whim?)

The fifty mile march rose in public esteem, though the President’s Council issued a guarded press release advocating a gentle program of walking for exercise. Many communities organised their own marches, and thousands took part.  It was made clear that the administration was not sponsoring fifty mile hikes per se.  The freshly-coined ‘Kennedy march’ achieved fad status in the UK, and the extant Keswick to Barrow 40-mile walking challenge dates from that period.  It arose from a friendly discussion between US and British shipyard workers at Barrow. 

So, aside from being an interesting story from the history of 20th century physical culture, what is there in this tale that is relevant today?  It seems likely that the average American would still be seriously challenged by a fifty mile hike.  The history of government involvement in promoting the physical health of young people is an inglorious one.  Here in the UK, despite the recent euphoria of the 2012 Olympics, the situation is not reassuring. 

My verdict: it is a good time to remember the old environmentalists’ credo of ‘think global, act local’.  In this context that means look after your own fitness, do all you can to help others, especially your children.  Make no expectation of what education or government will do.  Kennedy was right – be prepared.


It All Starts With Your Mind

November 29, 2010

Today renowned New York City coach, athlete, author and blogger Al Kavadlo is our guest author.  I have just finished reading his book We’re Working Out!, which concisely presents his philosophy on training.  Here he is discussing motivation.  Thanks Al.

You can have anything you want; It all starts with your mind.

Exercise is the most clear cut example of how we can use our minds to manifest the reality of our choosing. Once you put that mental focus into action and start a consistent workout routine, your body starts to change right before your eyes.

If you have the mental focus to be in tune with your body, and you practice using that body, you can actually effect physical change in yourself. How cool is that? Really think about it.

The amazing thing is, everything else in life is pretty much the same way. Anything that you give your full mental focus to can be yours. That doesn’t mean it’s going to come easy, but if you want it badly enough, and you take the necessary steps towards that path, things that may have seemed impossible can become possible!

There were many challenges I once deemed out of my reach, but have since overcome; muscle-ups, human flags and one arm chin-ups were all exercises that once intimidated me. When I doubted my ability to perform these feats, I shut myself off from my potential. Once I realized that, however, I began to adjust my beliefs and start taking action to manifest my dreams. With practice and discipline I have since trained my body to do those feats and many others. And you can too!

Want a better body? It’s yours for the taking.

Exercise snacking

November 5, 2010

Beware of all enterprises that require new clothes. Mark Twain

As was demonstrated on Wednesday, darn it, there is just no need for a special place (a gymn), clothes, or other fim-flam.  Gear freaks might be saddened, but Mr. Twain would agree. 


Thanks to everyone for their interest in, and contributions to, Wednesday’s event.  I hope that each of you learned something from the day that you can make use of in your own lives and workplaces. 

For those who want to develop a more robust exercise habit, please get in touch and let me know if there are any resources that you would like.  I would also be keen to hear any ideas for future events or even a programme that we could put together to support your efforts (and which might involve your staff too) – I have some ideas which I will float in the near future. 

Some of you may be feeling a little muscle soreness, which shows that you put some good healthy stress on under-used body parts.  If you are resolved to keep this up but can’t quite remember the simple circuit that Steve Cody led, then some variation on this are a good place to start:

  • Gentle warm up (the things Chris taught would be great for this), getting more vigorous
  • 30 seconds press ups or tricep dips off a chair
  • 30 seconds active recovery (walking, jogging, skipping (not so easy!))
  • 30 seconds squats or lunges
  • 30 seconds active recovery
  • 30 seconds crunches
  • 30 seconds active recovery
  • [only three minutes so far – this could be done while a kettle boiled]


Either repeat above one or two times more – total then only six or nine minutes

Or move to one minute chunks once through (adding another 6 minutes or 4.5 if you keep recovery at 30 seconds), maybe finishing off with another round at 30 seconds again.  The total time of going through as suggested, first 30 second intervals, then 1 minute ‘on’ and 30 seconds rest, ending with 30 seconds again is only ten and a half minutes.  As you will remember from the barn on Wednesday, that sort of duration can really ramp up our metabolisms. 

By varying the duration of the exercise chunks, adding in exercises, reducing rest periods, running through it all more times, and so on, you can construct almost limitless variations.  This ‘convict conditioning’ approach can be done in a very small space, needs no special equipment or clothing (sorry chaps, that comes later!), and shows that even if you only have ten minutes you can do some useful movement practice in this ‘exercise snack’ format.  We all know this, but it is worth re-stating here: frequency is the most important thing, i.e. doing this stuff most days of the week.  Two or three decent walks or runs, plus two or three runs through of a simple bodyweight circuit a week will build a great foundation of fitness.  Have fun, take is slowly, and let us all know how you get on.

I also personally love the philosophy of the 100 Reps Challenge movement.  Basically, that states that modern life has removed so much of what was once commonplace physicality from our lives that, regardless of what other exercise practice we undertake on any day, we should, as a bare minimum and in order to replace some of that lost ‘background’ movement and energy demand, do some movement every day. 

More here:

Well-being day at Forrest Hills

November 5, 2010

Tackling stress and enhancing well-being 

On November 3rd, which was National Stress Awareness Day, a group of small business owners gathered at Forrest Hills, near to the campus, for a one-day workshop organised by theInstitute for Entrepreneurship and Enterprise Development at Lancaster University.   

In a morning devoted to physical aspects of health, attendees received instruction and vocal motivation from ex-Forces PTI Steve Cody.  Steve discussed the crucial role that personal motivation plays in any exercise program (or lack of).  He then demonstrated a range of movements and approaches to combining these into a fun but quick circuit.  Everyone present agreed that just 10 minutes of this ‘high intensity interval training’ approach can produce quite a sweat and be great fun. 

While one group enjoyed Steve’s instruction, others met with Chris Shaw, an expert practitioner of the Chinese martial arts.  Chris led people through a series of approaches from Qigong and Tai Chi.  The beneficial relaxing, stress diminishing and energising qualities of shaking, cicrcling, and slapping movements, as well as self-massage were are  all experienced, before the group were led through some good-natured exercises in pushing, being pushed, and avoiding external physical stresses.  The metaphorical lessons in this were clear to all, especially when after lunch, we turned to focus on themental aspects of stress, coping and well-being.  Former mental health nurse, now working as a stress and conflict resolution counsellor, Donna Burden led a group discussion on how stress manifests physically, how it links to depression, and what constitutes good mental health.  It was interesting to hear that exercise is first among the NIHCE guideline recommendations for the treatment of mild depression, reinforcing the value of the morning’s activities. 

The final session of the day was led by Jan Goss, who began a discussion on the topic of mindfulness before leading the group through a 25-minute long guided mindfulness meditation session.  It was good to have several attendees present who had previously worked with Jan’s methods, as they were able to vouch for the benefits which they had experienced from this practice.  

It was a packed day, but gave everyone a lot of things to incorporte into their own lives.  As I write, several participants have been in touch to confirm that DOMS (delayed onset muscle soreness) indicates that we managed to help them find the muscles that they had forgotten!

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