Following Southampton Solent University’s successful project bid ‘Retail Ladders’ the
Foundation Degree in Retail (Fd), BSc (Hons) Retail Management and MSc Retail
Management have been developed. The Retail Ladders project is a BIS funded Credit
Accumulation and Transfer Pilot Project.
The UK retail sector is big, complex and very diverse. It includes world class
international companies, innovative independents, and many retailers struggling to
survive in an extremely competitive environment with rapidly changing consumer habits.
Within the local environs economic modelling (EMSI) analyses employment profiles with
Solent’s 85 minute enrolment catchment, looking at employment trends between 2011 and
2016 (Jan 12). This analysis provides an indication as to the changing shape of the labour
market across the region and can help assess current and future course provision based on
employment prospects for graduates. Predictions for 2016 show a gentle upward
trajectory to circa 800,000 jobs.
Clearly, within Southampton and the wider region the potential for retail careers is
These courses target those already in the workplace seeking to enhance and develop
their qualifications and experience. The Fd title ‘Retail’ reflects the practice of
retailing as the functions and activities involved in the selling of commodities directly to
consumers. The pivotal elements of these functions and activities are explored within the
units. The student is likely to be of a level in the work environment where this
overarching approach is appropriate.
The BSc and the MSc reflect the middle/senior/executive management cohort, likely to be
middle career professionals seeking validation of their skills and experience, augmented
by academic endeavour. These students are likely to be progressing through the Retail
Management career trajectory, hence the reflection of the practice of management in BSc
(Hons) Retail Management and MSc Retail Management nomenclature.
The Retail Ladders project, whilst tightly focused on serving the needs of the retail sector,
is transferable. The overarching delivery model can be disseminated and adapted to
address other sectors. It is based on flexibility, blended learning methods and a ‘step on,
step off’ progression approach that are readily adaptable.
The strategic intent of Southampton Solent University is well met by this project and the
development of these degrees:
Inclusive and flexible forms of Higher Education that meet market needs;
Imaginative working partnerships with Further Education and employers;
A significant contribution to social justice and economic competitiveness
for Southampton and its region;
Knowledge creation and exchange that fuse academic rigour and
Excellent student employability;
Entrepreneurship and diversified income streams;
The Retail Ladders project has supported the design of courses to enable graduates to
demonstrate knowledge and vocational understanding of the retail industry and the
principles that drive retail developments.
October 2012 the proposal and overarching plan for the suite of courses was taken
to, and shared with the Southampton Retail Skills Shop Steering Group Meeting. The
proposal was greeted with enthusiasm and the potential for SMEs highlighted by the group.
It was recognised that perhaps the suite of degrees will be quite a ‘slow burn’ and that it
will be potentially easier to promote and understand once SSBS has a product ‘out there’
and there are students with a track record of attendance and achievement.
Academically challenging and rigorous and combined with work based learning, students
will be supported in their studies at Southampton Solent University by a number of
academics with successful Retail backgrounds who understand and have worked in the
industry. A number of the Senior Lecturers have significant retail experience across a
number of facets within the industry. There are also Associate Lecturers who bring their
industry experience both past and contemporary to enhance the team.
Work based learning ensures that the course is relevant, current and ‘on the job’
and enables students to ‘earn and learn’.
Southampton Solent Business School (SSBS) has significant expertise and proven
success in Blended Learning delivery.
Programmes that reflect the real world professional practice of retailing and retail
management in the business environment by taking a thematic approach to
Non-standard entry encouraged and facilitated.
CMI recognition at MSc level has been applied for.
The development of programmes of study in Higher Education institutions geared to
continuing professional development through 'work-based learning' has increased
The growing recognition of the importance of the accumulation of credit and its
portability, the significance of accrediting/assessing prior learning, and the negotiation of
work-based and problem-focused projects, has led to the development of a range of
flexible programmes for participants across the UK.
The current UK government’s emphasis on flexible modes of delivery as important
mechanisms for realising the higher skills agenda, can be evidenced, for example, by the
rapid growth of undergraduate and postgraduate work-based learning programmes. In
Higher Ambitions: The Future of Universities in a Knowledge Economy (2009), it is clear
that all universities will be expected to explain how they will improve graduates' career
opportunities and to educate students in workplace skills and that:
The next phase of expansion in higher education will hinge on providing
opportunities for different types of people to study in a wider range of ways than
in the past. The focus will therefore be on a greater diversity of models of
learning: part-time, work-based, foundation degrees, and studying whilst at
This renewed emphasis on higher level skill and workforce development is, in part a
response to the work of Leitch (2006) whose report sets out in detail the place of the UK
in world economies.
Foundation Degree in Retail (Fd)
The Fd offers a route through for L3 students from Brockenhurst College (and other
colleges) and consolidates the apprentice route and scheme. Brockenhurst College were
successful in their bid to operate the Retail Skills Shop for Southampton. The Retail Skills
Shop Southampton grew out of a rising need to provide retailers and those looking for a
career in retail with high quality training provision and a support network.
Working with the National Skills Academy for Retail (People 1st
), Brockenhurst College are
part of the largest network of retail skills shops in the country which means the training
offered is consistent and quality-marked whilst still meeting the needs of our retailers and
the local community. Through Brockenhurst and the Retail Skills Shop, apprentice and
higher apprentice routes are the basis for progression to the Fd.
This Fd is a work based course delivered in a blended mode and this supports learners
within their work environment. Many of the units are predicated upon reflection on the
student’s work place and work experience. The L5 unit Personal and Professional
Development presents opportunities for identification and research into a specified area
of retail management; this is probably (but not exclusively) likely to be based on the
student’s own work place. Delivered innovatively through myknowledgemap via the SOL
pages the content of the course was developed through the Retail Consortium. With retail
partner Tesco, the Foundation Degree Forward (fdf) led consortium designed this
Foundation degree to improve business performance. Underpinned by workforce
development needs, it created a flexible higher education, university awarded,
qualification for the retail industry; to make knowledge and skills transferable across the
The New Challenges New Chances (NCNC) report (2011) highlighted, based on the
principles set out in Skills for Sustainable Growth, the aspiration of a ladder of
opportunity of comprehensive Vocational Education and Training programmes:
“From community learning and basic skills through to high-quality
Apprenticeships, to clear and flexible progression routes to Higher Vocational
Education. Many responses to the consultation on NCNC emphasised the need
to make progression routes to higher education from apprenticeships,
vocational and professional qualifications clearer and more easily navigable. In
order to achieve this, institutions in both higher and further education need to
develop ways of working together, particularly in the alignment of the systems
they operate. A key area is the development of jointly-recognised credit
systems, meaning that learning acquired in an FE, vocational or professional
context is recognised and valued by HE institutions, (and vice versa) and counts
towards the achievement of qualifications.”
The report highlighted co-operative proposals that focus on increasing credit accumulation
and transfer opportunities in support of progression across the adult skills, further and
higher education sectors. This Fd Retailing enables L3 students and those with non-
standard entry profile and/or qualifications to progress to HE. Southampton Solent
University offers excellent transitional support through its Professional Development Unit
(PDU) – Personal Development for Higher Education. This is a bridging course which
prepares prospective students for a Foundation Degree. This PDU is specifically designed
to help students make the step up into higher education. The PDU – Bridge the Gap is
also available and this too serves to bridge the gap and create a pathway through Further
and Higher Education.
The degree was developed in partnership with key retail employers, to contribute to the
narrowing of skills gaps; to give improved chances of career progression, both within and
outside the retail industry; and to develop retail employees at supervisory/junior
management positions in specific aspects of their job role or collectively.
Nationally where Fds are developed for professional learners it is common for the Fd to be
2 years ‘FT’. The self-managed, work based learning is pivotal to the learning within the
Fd. However each of the course Units (20 credits each) have been validated on a stand-
alone basis but designed to accumulate to a full Fd.
BSc (Hons) Retail Management (top-up)
This course complements the university strategy for employer engagement and the
development of business relationships within the private sector within Southampton. The
course will also build on the knowledge gained in developing and delivering other level 6
‘top-up’ programmes within the business school.
The BSc (Hons) Retail Management is primarily designed to be a level 6 ‘top-up’
professional development programme for awards FD Credits and APEL. Foremost among
these awards is the Foundation Degree, (Fd) in Retail. Potentially the programme would
be available to any FD, not necessarily those exclusively provided by FBSE. AP(E)L
arrangements are such that the degree will be attractive to entrants (and employers) who
wish to accredit their prior retail development experience and achievement. This will
present employees and employers alike to ‘top up’ existing training and development
provision to a BSc (Hons).
The Retail Work Based Project, undertaken in collaboration with employer identification
of an issue that will be of benefit to the business, present students with the opportunity to
hone skills developed within the Fd to a more robust academic level. It should be noted
that this work based project is not a project in isolation. The assessment demands a
portfolio which presents students with the opportunity to also reflect upon their own
contribution to the organisation and relate what they have learned from the project to
their own personal and professional development within a retail context.
For students who undertake the L6 top-up based on a non-standard or alternative entry,
the project will enhance employability and also maintain academic rigour.
The degree is designed to enable graduates to demonstrate a knowledge and vocational
understanding of the retail industry and the principles that drive retail developments.
Students will be able to propose creative yet practical solutions to complex problems
within a retail management context, and make appropriate and effective management
decisions within a retail business. They will become able to effectively communicate
information, arguments and analysis concerning key themes and issues in retailing using a
variety of methods to a range of audiences; they will be able to critically evaluate the
appropriateness of different approaches to problem solving in a retail context; and they
will demonstrate key skills, including people management, that will enhance their career
opportunities and achieve business development goals.
Whilst recognising that the development therefore, is supported as part of an overarching
project and funding the proposals and development have, nonetheless, been taken out to
industry. A selection of industry connections is highlighted within the market research.
MSc Retail Management
This course will provide a route to academic and professional recognition for range of
students – those with traditional academic qualifications and those who wish to APEL their
experience of the Retail industry and work towards academic recognition. Employability
and the related skills are at the heart of this programme with a suite of real world
learning opportunities, work based learning and work based applied learning. This
blended route is developed and focused towards students within the work place and
indeed in current management roles.
The MSc Retail Management has seven core units which integrate theory and practice with
a real world agenda throughout. These units cover the CPD and skills required of a
student embarking on management study; the day to day work of management; the
strategic work of management; a unit to reflect the current issues in business to which
managers are required to respond and lastly the research skills to enable these units and
the research project units which follow. Such units are in the context of research of
organisations who proffered that they needed leadership who could contextualise their
industry in the wider business environment. The project unit demands a retail centric
piece of work. All content will correspond with QAA Benchmark guidelines. The design of
the learning, teaching and assessment strategy is discussed in greater detail in section 1.6.
Subject areas for MSc Retail Management will focus on a wide range of topics which will be
integrated within the unit themes detailed above. Within Management in Context (the
day to day work of management), indicative content includes people, money, operations,
law, communications, teams and statistics; within Organisational Development (the
strategic work of management), indicative content includes (perhaps run by simulation),
strategic management, marketing, leadership, innovation, product development; in the
core unit Business Issues and Practice, as an example technological change, change
management, CSR and/or cross cultural management.
This proposal considers Blended Learning in the context of the definition found in the
university’s academic handbook (section 4f), where Blended Learning aims to enhance the
student learning experience by recognising differing learning requirements and
expectations. It involves the thoughtful and creative integration of information and
communications media with face to face teaching. The course development team has
redress to the significant experience in this area from the development and delivery of the
MA Business Studies which was used as an HEA case study in 2010 alongside the FDA
blended learning. Through following the HEA sponsored Discipline Focused Learning
Technology Enhancement Academy programme, we developed exemplar blended learning
units and our project and developments was subsequently showcased as an HEA case
study. The team have had a range of publications and conference presentations as a
result of these enhancements.