The Financial Times reports that business schools in Scotland are adapting to the new constraints on the personal finances of oil and gas professionals that are caused by the crisis in the sector. Business schools have found ways to make their MBA programmes more affordable and flexible.

New Oil and Gas MBA solutions

Robert Gordon University, for example, offers MBAs on a modular basis, with students able to pick only the modules that best suit their needs, pausing their studies - and payments - if necessary.

The same flexibility has been introduced at the University of Aberdeen - a critical factor for Colin McIntyre who highlights that:

Other business schools were demanding upfront payment for at least the first year of an MBA. Being able to pay for just one module at a time at Aberdeen was the real dealmaker for me.

Oil and gas companies have traditionally been strong advocates of MBAs and management qualifications, eager to equip mainly technical staff with business skills. About 250 students have beeb enrolled across RGU’s general MBA and the Oil and Gas Management MBA since it started 10 years ago.

Specialised vs. General Management MBAs

The specialised MBA has been the more popular since its launch, but Prof Marcella notes that numbers of applicants have dropped “dramatically” in the past two years, while numbers on the general MBA have risen:

People are seeking to diversify themselves and position their skills as highly relevant to other sectors.

However, she says oil and gas remains a viable career, particularly in growth areas such as enhanced recovery, carbon capture and decommissioning. That means Scottish business schools are tweaking programmes to address the sector’s changing priorities, such as tackling costs through more efficient supply chains and working collaboratively.

Both topics are covered on the MBA and MBA Energy Management programmes at the University of Aberdeen’s business school. Russell Williams, director of the school explains:

We also have a strong entrepreneurship theme on our MBA, looking at new business models and innovations to understand how markets can be disrupted not just by technology or external events, but by new ways in which value is created and distributed.

Others are targeting oil and gas workers with broader programmes, such as the University of Edinburgh Business School’s new MSc in Energy Finance and Markets, which begins in September. Gbenga Ibikunle, a lecturer in financial markets says:

We are seeing huge investment in diversifying the energy mix, but there remains a shortage of talent with the broad, interdisciplinary skills and innovative thinking needed. We’ve drawn on the university’s expertise in finance, geosciences, engineering, economics and politics to create a programme to plug this gap.

The future of oil and gas careers

The North Sea oil and gas sector has been forced to adapt over the past two years, as sustained oil price falls have taken their toll. With crude oil trading at about 45 USD a barrel, less than half the 2014 price, the number of jobs lost across the wider economy as a result could reach 120,000 by the end of 2016, according to a report published in June by Oil & Gas UK, the industry body.

Recently, Shell’s chief executive, Ben van Beurden said the operator, which employs 1,700 people in the north-east of Scotland, would be re-evaluating its North Sea operations. The challenge is particularly hard for operators in that region where oil and gas reserves are becoming more difficult and more costly to extract.

“No one in Aberdeen is unaffected,” says Professor Rita Marcella, who is dean of the neighbouring Aberdeen Business School at Robert Gordon University.

Mr. McIntyre, from the University of Aberdeen, believes the oil and gas companies will recover from the crisis. He still sees a big future for oil and gas, but is convinced that both companies and business schools have to work a bit smarter.

Source: The Financial Times