As the 2020-21 academic year draws to a close, we reflect on the inaugural year of our new undergraduate programme, BSc Business Accounting.
A collaboration between Alliance MBS, PwC and the ICAEW (Institute of Chartered Accountants in England and Wales), the degree combines academic study, integrated professional work placements and progress towards the ICAEW Chartered Accountancy qualification, the ACA.
October 2020 welcomed the first intake of 40 high-calibre students from a range of diverse backgrounds, both from the UK and around the world.
Student Emily Berry said: “I was thrilled to be accepted onto the ‘Flying Start Degree Programme’, as it provides an impressive foundation for my future career. The programme brings opportunities both within and beyond the University, as it will allow me to gain work experience at PwC, one of the ‘big four’ accounting firms.”
“I chose Manchester as it is renowned for being one of the most prestigious universities within the UK. The University has an excellent reputation for providing top quality teaching, as well as ensuring that students develop career and life skills for work beyond their degree.”
Programme Director, Wendy Wild, is proud of how the first-time undergraduate students have adapted during the pandemic: “All our students have demonstrated tremendous resilience and rose to the challenge of the virtual reality we were all faced with at the start of the academic year.”
Teaching and learning experience
Teaching on the programme was adapted for delivery using a blended learning approach. Wendy added: “Whilst this is different to how the students had previously been taught, they have taken it in their stride. This approach to learning has meant that students have had to develop more advanced time management techniques and strong self-discipline, as will be expected of them when they enter the workplace.”
Speaking about the course content, Fiona King, who lectures on the programme’s first-year module, Law for Accountants, said: “The auditors and accountants of the future will face an ever-increasing range of legal obligations and so the ability to work comfortably with the law and the legal system is essential. This year's students have found that comfort zone.”
“Not only did they apply themselves to the hard work involved in dealing with a new academic discipline, but they went far beyond that and quickly developed the creative and investigatory techniques required for high-level legal application.”
“It’s been an absolute pleasure to work with such an impressive group!”
Charlotte Lever, Flying Start Student Engagement Manager at PwC and former ‘Flying Start’ graduate herself, has enjoyed working with Alliance MBS students during the year.
She explained how PwC have already been closely involved with guiding the students through their first year: “We held interactive induction sessions during welcome week where new students had the chance to hear from and quiz recent ‘Flying Start’ graduates. We have also held drop-in sessions to inform them about activities and initiatives at PwC, as well as update them on the firm's reaction to Covid-19.”
Building a community
“They have done a tremendous job of creating a real sense of community. The students have set up a very active WhatsApp group, using social media to fully engage with and support each other through the programme and group assignments.”
In addition, students make the most of regular drop-in sessions to catch-up with Wendy and their Programme Officer, Sally Hamilton. “As a relatively small year group, students on the programme have been able to get to know us and each other really well and benefitted from highly personalised supervision and a close year group” says Wendy.
“All of the students participated in the online social events that have taken place, including a Christmas Quiz hosted by PwC, a session with the ICAEW, and a ‘meet the professionals’ event with PwC.”
BSc Business Accounting Student Awards 2021
This year PwC also launched a new initiative for their staff who work in audit. Wendy organised a quiz to see which Business Accounting students’ best aligned to these values of their future employer. Students had to vote for their peers, with Harry Warren coming in overall first place, and voted ‘Student of the year 2021’; he was especially recognised for the value of ‘putting the team first'.
Harry said: “The support and sense of community - despite learning virtually - has been amazing. I know that if I was to ever struggle and need support that it would be easily accessible from my peers through our WhatsApp group or from the many people involved on the degree from The University, PwC and the ICAEW, that we have contact with on a regular basis. It helps you feel a part of something big and exciting as you progress through your studies.”
Gabby Blackburn, was voted the student who ‘took most pride in her work’ by her peers for 2020-21, and Terez Williams was voted student most ‘open to challenge’.
Gabby said: “My expectations are continuously exceeded by the programme, with regards to the level of support available and high-quality teaching, and it has been such an incredible opportunity to have worked so closely with one of the big four firms, PwC.”
Reflecting on his University experience so far, Terez added: “I have really enjoyed the first year and found our social media communication to be highly beneficial and valuable, as a way to stay in touch, ask questions and most importantly make friends during a challenging year.”
Planning for next year
“All of the students have been allocated their placement office to start in April 2022, so 2021-22 will be an intense learning period but hopefully a pleasurable one for these future professional accountants.”
Looking forward to the next semester, the students are planning lots of social activities to connect with each other face-to-face when they are able, along with the new cohort of first-years who will join the programme.