Students at Birmingham City University are gaining industry experience through a link with the UK and Ireland SAP user group.
Ardavan Amini, head of the enterprise systems centre of excellence at the university, says the user group’s member organisations “expose students to real industry challenges. This is a strategic partnership for us”.
In collaboration with SAP, Birmingham City University (BCU) launched its Institute of Innovation for Enterprise Systems in 2010. This featured an SAP “Teaching Laboratory” providing access to SAP hardware, networking and software.
BCU joined SAP’s “University Alliance” programme in June 2010, which involves more than 1,350 universities worldwide. In September 2010 the university launched its masters degree in enterprise systems management, a course designed around SAP certification.
At the same time it got involved with the UK and Ireland SAP user group, whose special interest group (SIG) on database, technology and innovation it helped create. The university also hosts SIG meetings, and Amini draws attention to the heavy presence of SAP customers in the West Midlands area. BCU is itself an SAP User Group member.
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Real-life business applications
One local employer to benefit from the relationship between the university and the user group is a retail jewellery company Aurum Holdings.
Glenn Bamford, SAP Manager at Aurum Holdings, says: “We got to know BCU through attending one of the user group’s events and our relationship has grown from there. Students join us with knowledge of SAP but, more importantly, a desire to work in this field. In return, we provide BCU with real-life business problems, so courses can be tailored to give students the correct skills to find a job in SAP.”
David Keubeng, now an SAP systems analyst at Aurum Holdings and a former BCU student, says “the relationship between Aurum Holdings and BCU gave me the opportunity to nurture my academic knowledge in a real-life business environment”.
BCU’s Amini describes how the university is working with SAP in Germany, too, with the Hasso Plattner Institute in Potsdam and with researchers at the company’s headquarters in Waldorf.
Since 2010, 200 students have graduated from the masters degree programme, 80% of whom are employed either in the UK or their country of origin. Graduates predominantly go to SAP partners and customers – around 30% and 50% respectively, he says. But some have also gone to IBM and Oracle, as well as SAP itself.
The course supplies certifications in SAP business intelligence (BI), customer relationship management (CRM) and enterprise resource planning (ERP). Amini says that, in the more advanced area of SAP technology, in 2012, BCU taught students “to develop analytical queries on Hana for specific business cases”. And some of these come through the user group, which the students can use as part of their dissertations.
Forging links between academia and industry
Students have had internships at GSK, Accenture, Capgemini and Birmingham City Council.
The centre is also engaged in a pharmaceutical supply chain research project with GSK, Astra Zeneca, and the University of Cambridge. Amini says BCU students “are spinning off case studies from that”.
Craig Dale, chief executive of the user group says: “We do value our links with academia. SAP’s University Alliance programme is producing the next generation of SAP experts and we see great value in helping students broaden their real-life knowledge.
"Through hosting events at BCU and providing students with discounted membership, we hope to encourage them to share their knowledge in our user community and possibly become User Group volunteers in the future.”