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A master’s that takes the fear out of numbers

Is a lack of financial experience holding you back from the next step in your career? Do you worry you can’t talk with confidence about figures and funding? While not everything is driven by the bottom line, almost any senior manager in modern business is expected to be able to contribute to discussions on budgeting and finance, but what if that’s not your background?

Written by Allie Fitzgibbon |

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You'll learn not only the core principles of accounting and finance, but also how to apply them to your role and how they fit into your organisation.

According to Associate Professor Lynsie Chew and Professor Alan Parkinson, it’s time we take the fear out of finance and offer people from any management discipline the chance to get to grips with this vital business currency.

One of the hallmarks of management is being given your own budget and if you don’t know how to manage it that’s going to become a problem pretty quickly.

The University of London has partnered with Member Institution, UCL, to develop a brand new MSc in Accounting and Financial Management. The flexible, online programme is aimed at almost anyone who wants to increase their understanding and develop their skills in core finance subjects – from accounting frameworks and analysing risk, to corporate governance and investment management.

Lynsie Chew and Alan Parkinson from UCL are the Programme Development Directors. They explained why a strong understanding of ‘matters financial’ is essential for managers in all areas of business.

Professor Parkinson said: “It’s an important currency to have in business, particularly for those who are aspiring in their careers. It becomes increasingly important as you go up the ladder, when you’re invited to more meetings and you’re expected to understand and be involved in business case discussions. Even at a basic level, one of the hallmarks of management is being given your own budget and if you don’t know how to manage it that’s going to become a problem pretty quickly.”

Professor Chew added: “No matter what your background is, you’ll be held accountable for more things as you move up the ladder and this programme offers you the chance to consolidate your own expertise but add to that an appreciation of how finance, strategy and management come together.”

Unlike many similar programmes, the new MSc is open to students who have no prior academic experience in finance. It will also appeal to those who want to broaden their understanding of accounting and finance but not necessarily move to a career in finance.

Professor Parkinson said: “We expect that for many students who are already in established careers – in IT or HR for example – they will stick to that career but will use this programme as a badge to demonstrate their broader business understanding. It will be interesting to see though as there is no minimum age or required career experience so it’s also possible we’ll have some students who have just completed their undergraduate degree and are looking for a master’s that won’t require them to travel. From our experience with on-campus students at UCL, this could really ignite a passion in them and it may be the start of their career in finance.”

Don’t be put off by a fear of numbers. We take you from the bare basics and do everything we can to make sure you have the self-confidence to handle more complex topics.

A highlight of the new programme is the opportunity to take part in the award-winning Icarus simulation. This capstone project offers students the chance to work in groups to turn around a failing airport. UCL has been using the simulation in other Finance programmes for five years and in 2017 it was awarded Gold at the Learning Technology Awards.

Professor Chew said: “The project is an excellent community building activity but it’s also a really practical way to develop skills. Students have to negotiate a team dynamic with complete strangers to achieve a common goal. It’s intense but hugely engaging and it offers them the chance to learn more than just the mechanics and theory but really understand the practical side of finance and learn to reflect and be self-critical.”

We’ll teach you not only the core principles of accounting and finance, but also help you to apply them to your role so you can understand how it fits into your job and your organisation.

Professor Parkinson added: “One of the biggest challenges with online learning is what we call the loneliness of the long-distance learner. This project is a great way to bring online students together and we know from alumni who’ve completed it in the past that they’ve really enjoyed it and it has taught them a lot about themselves and other people. Many of them have even made friends in their group and we hope to bring these additional benefits to students on the new MSc.”

Barry McCarthy is an accounting academic in UCL School of Management and will be Programme Director for the MSc in Accounting and Financial Management when it is launched. He described what sets this programme apart from the competition.

“Both institutions have an excellent global reputation. While most universities are now embracing online learning due to the restrictions of the pandemic, University of London already has an impressive track-record of delivering online and distance education. Students also have the benefit of UCL’s world-class research and links to industry which really shine through in the modules.

“The flexibility offered in this programme allows you to study while you work and put your learning into practice immediately. We’ll teach you not only the core principles of accounting and finance, but also help you to apply them to your role so you can understand how it fits into your job and your organisation.”

As for advice to anyone considering the programme, Professor Chew had this to say: “Don’t be put off by a fear of numbers. We take you from the bare basics and work up and we’ll do everything we can to make sure you have the self-confidence to handle more complex topics. Be inquisitive, ask questions and build up a dialogue with your peers and the academic team – we want a lively cohort. In return, we will aspire to make the programme interesting, engaging, useful and, dare I say it… fun! (Well, almost!)”

Learn to walk the walk and discover how the MSc in Accounting and Financial Management gives you a solid foundation in business finance propelling your career forward.