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Integrating business management into postgraduate study
  1. Ben Sykes

Abstract

The University of Liverpool offers a postgraduate certificate in veterinary business management. Ben Sykes describes how the course is run

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RECENT articles in Veterinary Record have demonstrated the importance of veterinary business management to practitioners, but the role of various tiers of education in veterinary business management remains a point of contention. In a recent Viewpoint article, I argued that the development of extensive business skills at a new graduate level is beyond the capabilities of undergraduate students, and the capacities of the universities that educate them (Sykes 2013). I further suggested that veterinary business management should be viewed as a specialised skill in the same manner that clinical skills are, and that attainment of business management skills requires a systemic, structured approach to learning. Recognising this, the University of Liverpool's School of Veterinary Science has developed a postgraduate certificate in veterinary business management (PGCertVBM), which can be studied online through part-time study.

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The PGCertVBM is a 60-credit programme at Master's degree level, consisting of six modules starting with a four-week introductory module. This is followed by four 16-week modules that cover key aspects of business management (human resources, marketing, finance and accounting and business strategy and entrepreneurship) and a 16-week work-based learning module. Assessment for the four core modules is also approved by the RCVS and successful attainment of these modules can contribute towards achievement of the RCVS certificate in advanced veterinary practice (CertAVP).

Each module is designed to encourage the candidate to critically evaluate the daily activities of a veterinary practice against the fundamentals of business management, with emphasis on how the business management literature relates to veterinary practice. It is commonly accepted that an evidence-based approach is central to the development of good clinical skills and the programme's philosophy is that business management is no different.

An evidence-based approach is taken throughout the programme, using peer-reviewed business management research to answer specific questions. This approach is considered a cornerstone.

The structure of the modules is such that learning materials and assessments are provided on a weekly basis, allowing candidates to work through each module at a steady pace. Extensive peer to peer interaction is encouraged through the use of discussion boards where students can interact and collaborate, bouncing ideas between colleagues and academic staff within the virtual ‘classroom’. These facilitated discussions are an important aspect of the learning process and often result in the development of interesting, educated discussion points. Additional assessments revolve around written work, reflecting the study material learnt against the candidates’ own business experience.

The programme is open to veterinary surgeons and non-veterinary staff who are actively involved in business management. As such, it provides an avenue for veterinarians or practice managers seeking to develop a further understanding of their own business; alternatively, it creates an opportunity for veterinary or non-veterinary staff who are looking to gain a new skill with the goal of improving their future job prospects.

Enrolment for the introduction to veterinary business management modules take place three times per year, with the four core modules operating on a rotating basis, and the work-based learning module is offered three times per year, allowing candidates to start and stop according to their own schedule – over usually two years and within a maximum of three years.

More information about the programme can be found at www.liv.ac.uk/vets/cpd/online-modules/business-management.htm or by e-mailing: daulbs@liverpool.ac.uk.

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