UK-based co-operative managers and credit union professionals are being urged to enrol for a unique web-based course designed to combine the principles of co-operation with modern, cutting edge management practices.
Officially, the three-year courses plus thesis work are based at St Mary's University in Halifax, Nova Scotia. But – apart from a compulsory one-week gathering for programme orientation and a study tour to co-operatives in Spain and Italy – all the students meet virtually via the worldwide web rather than in a classroom environment.
Programme Manager Tom Webb from the Canada-based Global Co-operation Inc. has been in Britain recently to try to stimulate interest in the course and told the News: "Really, students find us – we don't find them. We started from zero and are now trying to up the profile of the courses so that UK managers know they exist.
"Worldwide, co-operatives are operating more and more like the competition, so our aim is to focus on the co-operative difference and emphasise our unique marketing position."
Mr Webb said: "Co-operative values and financial success are not mutually exclusive goals, but complementary and interdependent elements of co-operative business success," he said.
"The co-operative and credit union values and principles are not a sea anchor dragging behind the ship and impeding its progress, but rather are the mainsail that should provide its power and ensure its business success."
The Master of Management programme has been endorsed by Co-operative Group chair and Midcounties Co-op Chief Executive Bob Burlton, who said there is no more important issue than identifying and preparing the next generation of co-op leaders.
One of only a handful of UK-based co-operative officials who has signed up for the course is Russell Gill, manager of the Co-operative Group's Member Services Unit.
Mr Gill, who joined the programme over two years ago, told the News the course was enormously beneficial for Co-op sector professionals and would be suitable for people involved in co-operative marketing, buying and finance.
"Yes, learning over the internet can be hard work and the differing time zones sometimes create a problem, but this is the sort of qualification people involved in the Movement should be looking for to benefit themselves and their employers," he said.
"It's disappointing that so few people from the British Movement have enrolled, but I hope others will do so soon."
For further details on the programme, please visit: www.smu.ca/mmccu