Qualifying at Cranfield University

Posted on 5 Dec 2012 by The Manufacturer

It may not take you back to the student days you remember – but a mounting track record shows that a professional MSc with Cranfield University can transform you career opportunities and your business.

Dr Patrick McLaughlin, programme director for the Operations Excellence MSc

September 2012 marked the tenth anniversary of Cranfield University’s professional MSc in Operations Excellence. Over 110 students have now graduated from the two year, part time course and it has deservedly gained esteem in industry as a rigorous test of talent and a value-add opportunity for employers.

Dr Patrick McLaughlin, programme director for the Operations Excellence MSc explains why it has proved such a hit. “The MSc was the first of a small range of professional masters programmes that Cranfield now offers,” he says.

“These are designed to work for people with busy day jobs and to enable a direct benefit for the business they represent. They focus on the application of knowledge in new and innovative ways and require a level of self management which you will not find on a bachelors degree.”


Extending the family

Thanks to the success of the Operations Excellence MSc programme, and to meet the changing needs of professionals in engineering and manufacturing businesses, Cranfield University recently added two new courses to its family of professional MScs.

The first is the Integrated Vehicle Health Management MSc which examines the application of sensors and sensor techniques for the monitoring and maintenance of assets. “Largely this course focuses on applications for ships, planes, trains and satellites,” says McLaughlin. “But the principles are also highly relevant to static assets such as wind turbines.” The first cohort to complete this course will graduate in the summer of 2013.

The most recent addition to Cranfield’s professional MSc offering is the Through Life Systems Sustainment course. Designed specifically for the fast changing world of maintenance and asset management professionals.

Both these courses have the same modular structure as the Operations Excellence MSc and come at the same cost – almost always shouldered by the employer – of £17,000 for the two years.

The Operations Excellence course develops scientific techniques to deliver real productivity gains, asserts McLaughlin. A reality check which is supported by the course structure.

“The course is split into eight modules over two years. These modules include a group study in the first year and an individual thesis in the second year.”

While the other modules last for an intensive one week period of learning on-campus, the other two course segments take place over a number of months and in an industrial setting. They tackle real operational issues which have elicited significant bottom line gains for the companies under scrutiny states McLaughlin.

While the majority of students on the Operations Excellence programme have been budding high-fliers in the aerospace industry, other sectors – including food and drink – now augment the student mix.

Being able to share knowledge and experience with small but varied cohorts sets students up well for the delivery of their deep-dive thesis in the second year says McLaughlin. This study brings the focus of each individual student squarely back onto their own business and weaves their study into the day job.

“The theses that students have produced over the past ten years have tackled a multitude of business issues. Often operational, but also strategic issues.” Problems around production readiness of design, productivity improvements, health and safety issues and how to build a culture which facilitates productivity improvement have all been addressed.

“The course structure, the student mix and the access to Cranfield’s facilities – including its academic staff and through them a wealth of operations businesses – give students a full chance to master the art of the possible in operations excellence,” sums up McLaughlin.

To enrol on the Cranfield Operations Excellence MSc usually requires full time employment and employer support. Students are also largely required to have attained a bachelors degree in engineering though McLaughlin assures that, on a case by case basis, other qualifications may be acceptable.

“The focus of the course is on the application of knowledge,” he says. “So proven industrial experience is obviously very beneficial. Over the past few years we have taken several students onto the MSc who have arrived with apprenticeship training and no first degree. They have all done extremely well and successfully graduated.”