The International Academy of Sport Science and Technology (AISTS) is ensuring the next generation of sports leaders are equipped for the 2020s and beyond after revamping its core Master of Advanced Studies (MAS) course.
The Lausanne-based academy has undertaken a comprehensive review of its MAS in Sport Administration and Technology degree over the last two years so that the course – widely considered to be the industry’s benchmark – continues to develop graduates with the necessary skillsets.
The revamped course, which will begin in September, will bring new learning opportunities whilst retaining core aspects of the previous MAS. For instance, AISTS has enhanced its syllabus with a new focus on digital at its core, while also expanding real-world problem-solving projects and exercises brought in by external sports businesses and organisations. Lastly, the career coaching and support service, highly valued by the participants, is maintained throughout the whole programme, and beyond.
Cedric Vanden Bogaerde (VdB) has played a key role in the course revamp, having returned to AISTS – where he studied more than a decade ago – from the International Olympic Committee (IOC) in 2021.
“We have conducted an in-depth review of the course, with one focus in mind: what do successful sport managers need to master now and in 5-10 years from now,” VdB said.
The new MAS programme will run for 15 months, with the first eight months consisting of intense in-school study and lectures led by the academy’s guest professors. From June to the conclusion of the course in December, students will be required to work for two months within an organisation – as an intern, employee or through an entrepreneurial undertaking – and must then submit a study report based on their experience.
While much of the framework has remained the same, there have been comprehensive changes to the way the modules are structured.
“One of the changes is to highlight and enhance the interconnections through the weeks of lectures, because it otherwise becomes a patchwork of topics.
“Our role here with the professors and staff at the Academy is to coach the participants and help them unpack the interconnections across topics to elevate their understanding of the sport industry,” VdB said.
Five areas of study have also been prioritised, with a top tier comprising management and technology, followed by law in the second tier, and then sociology and medicine sitting in the third tier.
“Management and technology really drive the content of the programme. In the digital era of sport, they have to be the strong suit of a sport manager. Yet, we felt it necessary that those other three branches remained on the syllabus,” VdB added. “Sport is primarily a sociological phenomenon. Structure, rules and regulations and the business of it only come after, so we cannot ignore that sphere. Similarly, medicine has to be considered because health and wellbeing is at the heart of sport.”
Digital runs like a thread throughout the five branches of study. Within technology, students will look at machine learning, artificial intelligence and the internet of things and how they are used in sport. Digital will also feature in medicine, law and the other strands.
“We want to understand the situations where these modern digital technologies can be applied, in terms of improvement,” VdB added. “We’ve found a balance between understanding and applying concepts without becoming unnecessarily technical.”
Another area that crosses boundaries between the branches is sustainability, which has grown in prominence in sport, events and across most sectors over the last decade. While there is a standalone sustainability module, the broader topic is something that students will be encouraged to consider throughout the course.
“For example, in management how do you integrate sustainability in your strategic roadmap? How does that impact your accounting? The stakeholders you address, are they changing? These are the challenges our future leaders must consider,” VdB said.
The digital tech course also includes a project where students are set the task of solving real-world issues for external organisations. This project was piloted earlier this year in partnership with four organisations, including BMC, the world-class bike manufacturer, and FIVB’s Volleyball World.
“Volleyball World suggested that broadcasting of volleyball had been the same for 50 years. They wanted to know how new technology could bring a more immersive experience,” VdB said. “This challenge is just the kind of experience our students need.”
Digital is also driving development in terms of how AISTS students will learn, as well as what is learned. The academy has broadened its e-learning offering to offer more assistance to new MAS participants and also its alumni, encouraging lifelong learning.
Those embarking on the course will have access to a comprehensive range of study tools and guides, with some initial learning now done outside the classroom to allow professors to concentrate on more complex work during seminars.
AISTS will use its enhanced e-learning infrastructure to ensure its graduates can continue to learn throughout their career. VdB, an AISTS alumnus himself, is well aware of how sports leaders must be open to new thinking in a changing world.
“We are looking at complementary short programmes so that graduates can learn and update,” he said. “Areas such as diversity and inclusion are extremely important in 2022, but were perhaps not addressed even 10 years ago.”
Passion for sport
While the AISTS team has liaised with its founding members, such as the IOC, partners and other external organisations, to ensure its MAS study programme is right for 2022 and beyond, focus has also been put on the common theme that unites all academy entrants – a passion for sport.
The 2022 intake will be encouraged to participate in a range of sporting pursuits, both as participants and volunteers. In the era of Olympic Agenda 2020+5 it is acknowledged that sports leaders should have a broad understanding, not just of track athletes or football clubs, but also of emerging attractions like urban sports and esports.
This, combined with the location in the Olympic capital, offers participants unique opportunities to connect, immerse themselves and start their career in the world of sport.
“Every sport has a different culture,” VdB said. “We want our participants to experience that first hand.”