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SAS® helps the University of Westminster power a Master's degree in analytics

A long-time SAS® user, the University of Westminster's Department of Business Information Systems has now embedded SAS in its MSc in Business Intelligence and Analytics, helping provide real-world skills that enable graduates to become more employable and helping their employers truly benefit from analytics.

With a distinguished 170-year history, the University of Westminster attracts more than 20,000 students from over 150 nations, offering practice-based courses that are independently rated as excellent. "Across the school we aim to provide graduates with the very latest knowledge and skills," says Professor Thierry Chaussalet, Department of Business Information Systems, School of Electronics and Computer Science. SAS® has been an important part of the curriculum for over a decade. "I received my PhD from North Carolina State University so I was fully aware of SAS before I joined Westminster," Chaussalet says. "In fact, I was among those who first brought SAS into the department, and it's been used on a continuous basis in different courses ever since." Indeed, SAS was first used in under-graduate modules in 1998. Professor Chaussalet has led various courses, notably a successful MSc in Decision Sciences in which SAS played a key part. "We also developed MSc courses in Data Mining, Enterprise Information Systems and Information Quality that all featured SAS," he says. In 2010 the department restructured and rational-ised course programmes; this process saw the creation of a new MSc in Business Intelligence and Analytics that, Chaussalet says, is a state-of-the-art fusion of earlier courses – with SAS again playing a central role.

Mastering analytics
The MSc core modules comprise: Data Mining, almost exclusively based on SAS® Enterprise Miner™; a Postgraduate Project Module; Research Methods and Professional Practice; and Statistics and Operational Research. Optional modules cover Business Optimisation (which again draws heavily on SAS), Data Management, Data Warehousing and OLAP, and Risk Modelling and Simulation. "We use other tools such as SPSS as part of a balanced curriculum but, as soon as requirements become more complex in areas like data mining, it's always been SAS," Chaussalet adds. "We're also thinking about bringing SAS into other modules, like Statistics and Operational Research – having seen SAS® Enterprise Guide® recently, there are definitely opportunities there. A key benefit of SAS is that it's extremely reliable and also scalable compared to some other software that will struggle as you get more data and want to do more. You can rely on SAS: if your data's getting larger and larger, you know SAS will cope."

Over the years, he says, "We've had great support from SAS, and have always received an immediate and helpful response from the SAS® Academic Programme. A number of colleagues have completed SAS training, with more planned. We've attended the SAS® Professionals Convention and, perhaps most impor-tantly, SAS experts have visited the department almost every year. Having SAS speakers present their work and case studies is so useful, and an excel-lent experience for students. They can see the relevance of what they're doing and their use of SAS, and how useful it can actually be. In general, I must say that SAS® Support is extremely good."

Creating more employable graduates
The University believes graduates who complete the one-year full-time or two-year part-time course are far better placed to find work as consultants, as decision modelling or advanced data analysts, or in technical and analytics teams supporting management decision making – with employers encompassing local authorities, large PLCs ranging from pharmaceuticals to banking and insurance, the civil service and other public sector organisations like the NHS, retailers and specialist consultancies in IT, research and forecasting. Of the 20 to 30 MSc students each year, around half are part-time and already working in roles that touch upon business intelligence and analytics in some way.

"We're very conscious about employ-ability – and businesses themselves know they need to move in this direc-tion, to make better use of data they've already collected through data mining and analytics," Chaussalet says. "SAS has a very strong name and is widely regarded in this area. Knowing SAS gives you a competitive edge, and can enhance job opportunities open to you. We're also keen to work with students who already have industry experience and want to move to the next level. They may already use data intensively but not actually do the analytics; they could even be part of an analytics team." One student who recently submitted his proj-ect actually leads a 20-strong analytics team in a major retailer. "We're helping people like that, and their employers, to be ahead of the game – to help them appreciate and use leading-edge analytics solutions like SAS." Looking ahead, the department may use SAS more heavily in undergraduate course modules as it continues to grow its 'analytics offering'.

Chaussalet adds, "It's fair to say our use of SAS benefits the University, its students and, by extension, their future employers. SAS is an established solu-tion and is rooted in the statistics world, which indicates you're getting a more rigorous solution – a sense of rigour that increases your confidence further. Overall, I think everyone benefits from our use of SAS."

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University of Westminster

Business Issue:
Teaching postgraduate students real-life skills in the application of business intelligence and analytics; ensuring up-to-date knowledge and best practice approaches. Attracting students with a highly professional and beneficial analytics course offering.
Solution:
Advice and support from the SAS® Academic Programme, SAS® Education and SAS® Customer Support including: SAS speakers, SAS training, advice on course content, free software trials. Technology includes: SAS® Analytics, SAS® Enterprise Miner™, SAS® Data Integration Server, SAS® Data Quality solution.
Benefits:
SAS helps support the development and delivery of innovative courses like the MSc in Business Intelligence and Analytics, sup-porting the University's efforts to attract high calibre students, bringing real-world skills to students, addressing an industry skills shortage, and creating more employable graduates.

SAS is extremely reliable and scalable compared to other software that struggles as you get more data and want to do more. You can rely on SAS: if your data's getting larger and larger, you know SAS will cope.

Professor Thierry Chaussalet

Department of Business Information Systems

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