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SportBusiness Postgraduate Course Rankings 2018 | European universities continue to innovate and inspire

SportBusiness International spoke to leaders representing Europe's top three courses about how they are staying ahead of their rivals from across the continent.

1. The International Centre for Sport Studies (CIES) | Fifa Master
Kevin Tallec Marston – academic projects manager & research fellow in history, and Alessandro Pellicciotta, head of marketing and development.

SB: How have maintained your position as number one in Europe?
Tallec Marston: We have continued to focus on our strengths. We know what our identity is, we know that we’re a leader in the international sector. We work with strong university partners, we have an excellent and continually growing relationship with our alumni network, which is a fundamental pillar of any course that wants to last more than a few years. And I would say the most important thing is we try to challenge ourselves every year to rethink what we do and to change the paradigm and maybe ask difficult questions about how we can improve, because no one else is going to push us more than we can push ourselves.
What are some of those ways you’ve pushed yourselves?
Tallec Marston: One is the constant evolving curriculum. For a course to continue to attract the best people and to continue to provide the best education, we need to be sure that we are offering the most relevant topics, that we’re teaching them with the best methods and with the best people. That’s something where we have an internal review system every year based on the current student feedback and discussion with our professors. We are going to be introducing two or three new topics and modules in the coming two years, that are going to shift the focus a little bit on to some key new questions, whether governance and ethics, development and human rights questions, equality and inclusion, for example. We’re thinking to add a module on new media and another on CSR/Sustainability. We also have tuned our content to the global sports world, to be less Euro-centric. It’s just about keeping up with the times and providing the best content.
What kinds of sectors do your graduates end up in after they leave the course?
Tallec Marston: The main focus is the international sports sector, its organisations and events. Federations – Fifa being one of them but not the only one. International events – we will have many people working in Russia on the World Cup this year. We had a number of people at Pyeongchang [on the Winter Olympic Games], not just for the IOC but for various sponsors, agencies, for the LOCOG.
We then have a second set of graduates who work at the national level, but generally connected to international sports – so people who work in a national federation, club, league, government/sport ministry – meaning they’re constantly working on international relations or international development programmes.
You rank very highly for graduate employment. What makes your alumni so employable?
Pellicciotta: We have strengthened a lot in this area. We give increased importance to supporting internships and jobs, particularly with national and international federations and across the sports world. It is important for our stu-dents to be on the market and be visible. The most important change in the last year has been our close support and collaboration with iWorkInSport, a job fair which finally creates a market for recruiters in sport and courses from all over who seek to get students professional opportunities.
What are the challenges facing the sector?
Tallec Marston: Undoubtedly the biggest one is the growth of the general sports management higher education sector. The number of courses continues to grow and that market continues to be saturated with supply of courses. That means the programmes which are in there that want to be successful and draw the best students really must be top in all areas, whether it’s student experience, recruitment, content, work placement, alumni or industry connections. Our professional reputation has to be that we’re the best, that’s what we all work for, that’s why we’re here.
I would also say there is, just from a global political and economic perspective, a massive challenge in this area for funding. Not for courses, per se, but for students and scholarships. That’s something we’ve tried to address as best as we can with our limited resources, but we have seen a trend over the last six years that the number of people applying for our course who ask for a scholarship has just gone through the roof. About 60 per cent of candidates apply for some form of financial aid. And that is directly connected with the global economic crisis of ten years ago and the fact that doing this kind of thing remains a challenge. We do not want our course to be a privilege. We want this to be merit-based, with the best people.
A bigger-picture challenge is the relationship that sports management education has with the sports industry sector. The sports sector is under so much scrutiny from a transparency point of view, a governance point of view, and we need to be seen as the leaders in changing that. That’s one of our missions – to put out into the industry people who have a certain level of ethics, a certain standard of what it means to apply good governance, and that it’s not just about signing the best, biggest, most lucrative contract you can get at any cost.

2. Russian International Olympic University | Master of Sport Administration
Nikolay Peshin – pro-rector

The Russian International Olympic University is well established in the industry: how are you responding to new trends and developing the programme?
We have been intensively developing the RIOU educational programs integrating the modern trends. The sports industry is increasingly engaging local com-munities, states and big business, mostly through organising sporting events. Online communities and new technologies have become an essential element of the modern sports audience ecosystem and do strengthen and impact the fan experience. Social media and diverse digital platforms have created new marketing opportunities for interacting with global fans and attracting new sponsors. The growing esports and extreme sports market sectors look game-changing and we have responded to this challenge by inviting cyber sports experts to lecture at our campus, including start-up representatives and sport innovators.
What are the challenges you’re anticipating?
We’ve been analysing the global challenges facing big sports and adequately transforming our educational strategies. For practical assignments, RIOU students often take advantage of the superb post-Olympic infrastructure. However, as the rising cost of mega-events is a risk, we anticipate a growing significance of inter-regional cooperation, with new centres of sport business arising in Asia-Pacific. Another challenge is the operations impact of the digital marketing tools for selling sport-related products and services, as new esports emerge and start ruling the roost on the market.

3. Centro de Formación Fundació Valencia CF – ESBS European Sport Business School | Master in International Sports Management
Jorge Coll – director

The Master in International Sports Management has risen to third in Europe in our rankings. What are the main factors in your success?
We think the growth is due mainly to the level of our students who, with their work, effort and dedication, make us grow together. In the same way, it is because of the performance and continuous improvement of our professors and academic team, composed entirely of professionals of the sports industry.
 One of the most valuable aspects is being part of an elite Spanish football club. Students can interact right from the start with the sports industry from several areas, starting with the classrooms located in the same facilities as [La Liga side] Valencia CF. Also, the fact that most of the club’s area directors lecture in the program.
What challenges are you looking forward to?
The great challenge is innovation and the ability to adapt quickly to the transformations in the sports industry; having students who receive the know-how in a practical way and providing them with knowledge and key skills for their professional performance. This facilitates better access to employment, and we think it contributes to the improvement, growth and professionalisation of the industry.
 We want our students to receive the knowledge of what the industry needs from them. That's why our professors, like the advisory and academic committee, offer a practical point of view from their own experience. With each edition we carry out a process of continuous improvement that we hope leads us to a higher quality and better cover the demands of professionals in sports management.

This article features in the 2018 SportBusiness Postgraduate Course Rankings report. Browse the sections of the report or download the full PDF version here.

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