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The bell is tolling for all those financial services MSc courses

When times were good, finance-related MSc courses were all the rage. Now that things are much less good, the financial services MSc is looking a little over-banked.

In the UK alone, there are now MScs in Finance (or related subjects) on offer everywhere from Lancaster to Bath, York, Newcastle, Birmingham, Bournemouth, Leeds and Durham, as well as better known locations like Imperial, the London School of Economics and Cambridge University. Many were conceived in the years since 2003.

Can the new shrunken financial services market support all these finance postgraduates? If France is anything to go by, the answer is no. As we reported recently on our French site, Paris Dauphine, a university well known for its financial courses, has pulled its Masters in Financial Markets, citing reduced demand for traders.

Some of the many UK courses may yet suffer a similar fate. For the moment, however, a lack of graduate traineeships and supply of redundant bankers seem to be ensuring a steady stream of applicants. A spokesman for Imperial College Business School told us they didn’t want to go into “too much detail” on the number of people interested in their MSc in Finance, but that –

“We have found that current applications for the programmes you are interested in are broadly in line with expectations. There is no significant increase. Anecdotally, we are seeing an ever stronger calibre of applicant for these programmes.”

It’s interesting, therefore, that London Business School, which has recently launched a new Masters Course for university leavers, is pitching it in the direction of general management instead of financial services specifically.

Deputy Dean of LBS Julian Birkinshaw says the new course was conceived prior to the crunch and that its content has more to do with an attempt to avoid confusion with the better-established LBS Masters in Finance for experienced bankers, than with an attempt to avoid the saturated market in masters courses for university leavers. It looks like a good choice though – banks’ appetite for specialist Masters students is unlikely to recover soon.

Comments (18)

  1. Excellent article Sarah. In the good old days the courses from Imperial, Oxford and the like were quite bankable – not any more. Some of our interns and those who were unlucky to be laid off saw them as a temporary way to ride out the recession – when the general consensus was that it would be over within a year. i.e. improve CV,network, up-skill etc. However most now agree it was/is a waste of time and money. These courses cost in the region of 22K. Those that are soon to graduate will be competing with the legion of Lehman-ites roaming the city as well as others with PhDs and solid experience being shed from hedge funds that have imploded. Fortunately, the MSc Mathematics&Finance graduates should easily find other roles: teaching, statistical analysis, actuarial, engineering, physics. It is quite a shame though that the universities are still trying to market these programmes that clearly have had their day.

    ps: could we have an informed opinion about the next three months cue the announcement from KenLewis about the worsening credit condition in BoA and Citi despite the “one-off” profits and the joke called a stress test. Still shorting Barclays!

    Mr. Frank White Reply
  2. It is easy to jump to the conclusion that these courses will die out, but unless there is a significant collapse in recruitment over a matter of years, this is just not going to happen.

    Banks prefer young graduates, who they can work hard and pay relatively little. All these MScs do is raise the bar at entry level. Those from firms in MScs are actually the minority. Whilst there is still significant demand for these courses, the universities will run them.

  3. There’s only one MSc in Finance (out of 5) at Paris Dauphine that is not admitting this year – 203 – Market Finance and Commodity Markets.

  4. Good Article Sarah..If only those now in the Academic system could see what has happened to so many of their 08 and 07 classmates. Out of work without ever gaining much experience, leveraged up on everything from Widescreen to Car to Mortgage.Debts mounting , and limited chances of working in the market in the next couple of year

  5. Nice work Sarah!

    Henry is a douche.

  6. These courses suddenly appear too overpriced.

  7. Many of the courses are underpriced – pricing is determined by demand, and the better MSc courses are over-subscribed by 5 to 10 times their capacity. What limits MScs is getting good people to teach on them.

    This can change of course, but it will need a big change.

  8. Hello,

    At a recent MSc (p/t) module at the most prestigious university in the country, it was noted that 2 out of the 4 lecturers were now unemployed from their day jobs at banks. Among the (P/T) students, only two (out of 20) job losses so far.

    However, whether overpriced or not, having postgrad from really prestigious name uni will last for longer than even this downturn. And of course, if your employer pays something towards it, then even better.

    Best wishes,

  9. ‘Now things are much less good..’?! – brilliant use of the english language there. Sarah please learn how to type beyond the scope of a 3 year old!

  10. Sorry. I was trying to be colloquial.

    Sarah, Editor, eFinancialCareers Reply
  11. @Riskquant: Most p/t students are pretty junior in banks, whereas those with enough knowledge to lecture are generally at a higher level, but don’t generate revenue directly. Hence they are more likely to be chopped.

  12. ….so, I’ve applied to Cass for MSc Math Trading & Fin. starting Sep 2009 completing Sep 2010. Since reading the article I am now ???? what to do. Is it a good idea or not? I was hoping by late 2010 things will be better (by the way I want to become a Trader, no expereience as a trader). Any opinions appreciated.

  13. Obviously the market for new entrants is now very rough, and certainly an MSc in finance is not going to guarantee you a job.

    But as a headhunter I have to keep pointing people at a very basic fact that a decent career is measured in decades, not a couple of years.

    To an extent, what we are seeing MFEs becoming like many other qualifications where one has to compete for jobs and hope it will pay off over the next 10-20 years.

    Also of course someone thinking about an Msc to start soon is not really dependant upon the current market, they are taking a position in how the labour market will be in (say) the 2-5 year frame.

    I’m not going to claim clairvoyance here, other than to say it won’t be the same as it is now, and yes that includes both up and down.

    Also be aware than an MSc is a component, not a solution. You have to keep on learning, especially if you are a newly minted, but unemployed banker. Too many newbies I talk to seem to do little with this extra time. Mistake, possibly fatal.

    Dominic Connor, headhunter of old London Town Reply
  14. What i believe is that these MSc’s also cover courses in risk management which could vitally be as important in these troubled times as being able to manage the portfolio. Obviously the stocks wont tumble forever, and investments will continue to be made….and no layman could better handle it without a major in finance…. i myself will be pursuing an MSc in finance. There may or may not be opportunities after i graduate but the market will not be bleak forever.

  15. I think you’re right, I think you should think of your education as an investment; it might not necessarily pay dividends straight away, but over time you’re going to reap the rewards. Remember, the market won’t be dead forever..

  16. The market could be dead for a very very long time. Face the music, boys and girls, the boom times are over and compensation will be in line with other industries, perhaps a little less for the foreseeable future. It takes a long time for the realities to become apparent, but slowly I believe we are beginning to see the true picture.

  17. Hi to everyone,
    I am heading to the UK in September for Bachelor’s in Accounting and Finance and have received unconditional offers from the University of Bath, Leeds and York. I was hoping you could help me by telling me which amongst these universities is the best.
    Atirek Dhir

  18. I hardly ever write comments on blogs, but your article urged me to praise your blog. Thanks for a great read, I’ll be following you

    accounting services Oxford Reply

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