Students apply analysis skills to real-world business problems

Melbourne's RMIT University has deployed SAS solutions to help address the issue of making courses relevant to the real world. The solutions are used in the university's BSc (Statistics) and BSc (Mathematics) degrees.

Almost without exception, we found they [employers] used SAS and wanted new employees to have at least some familiarity with SAS.

Dr Ian Grundy
Director of Undergraduate Mathematics and Statistics, RMIT University

Australia's largest tertiary institution, RMIT University has some 74,000 students, including 30,000 international students, at three campuses in Melbourne and two in Vietnam. The university is ranked in the top 100 universities in the world for engineering and technology in the 2011 QS World University Rankings.

RMIT University decided to redesign its BSc (Statistics) and BSc (Mathematics) degrees. Therefore, it cast around for the ideal analytics software to use in the related courses. The university wanted to make the redesigned courses as relevant as possible to the real world in order that graduates going into the workforce would have the skills that employers want.

The decision to incorporate SAS in the curriculum was made by the Director of the university’s Undergraduate Mathematics and Statistics programs, Dr Ian Grundy. As he explains, “To decide how to redesign the courses we went out and spoke to various people in the major banks, insurance companies and other organisations that employ statisticians. We asked them what software they used and almost without exception, we found they used SAS and wanted new employees to have at least some familiarity with SAS. So we decided we should be teaching with the software that appeared to be the industry standard. It was a conscious choice of SAS for the higher years of our undergraduate degree.”

Amongst the details Ian Grundy uncovered by talking to financial institutions was the need for people who could handle “grubby real-world data.” He said this appeared to be a shortcoming amongst graduates across the board and which he now addresses with his Data Preparation for Analytics course. It is one of seven degree courses that involve the use of SAS software.

This provides students with the best analytics framework that supports the entire decision-making process. SAS enables users of the framework to deliver insights gleaned from data about customers, suppliers, operations, performance and more, helping them find solutions to immediate business issues. The courses empower students to solve complex business problems and seize new opportunities.

Ian Grundy says a subsequent survey of job advertisements seeking maths and statistics graduates in the financial industries sector showed that 100 percent of the advertisers were looking for familiarity with financial modeling software tools, while an overwhelming 60 percent emphasised SAS skills, explicitly.

Together with other universities in this country, SAS Australia supports RMIT University's objective of producing workforce-ready graduates with its Work Placement Program. The program has now been running for eight years and links students who have learned SAS in their university courses with SAS customers looking to act as host employers. Over the last three years more than half of these work placements have progressed into rewarding permanent employment, bringing a stream of benefits for the student, university and host employer. This year, SAS expects to place more than 40 students and soon-to-be graduates from amongst all its participating Australian universities.

RMIT University graduates from last year were placed in the Melbourne head offices of the ANZ Banking Group and the CGU Insurance. James Pettifer, who is the senior manager in CGU's Management Information group, said, "We have found the SAS placement program to be very useful. It has given us a great opportunity to see what students with SAS skills are available and see how they perform in real-world conditions. If they work out and stay, that's better. The student we placed through the program has stayed with us and has now been here for 10 months."

Speaking as an RMIT University graduate who was successfully placed at the ANZ Bank, Lyndon D'Arcy said, "The program was fantastically useful for me. I was taken on by the bank six months ago – largely thanks to the SAS program – and I'm now a full-time ANZ Bank employee."

SAS in more ways than one

In addition to its Work Placement Program, SAS canvasses its industry clients to find short-term work integrated learning opportunities for third-year students, and this activity is often a prelude to a work placement.

Also, SAS is a strong supporter of RMIT University's annual Mathematical Sciences Awards Night with four prizes ranging from the SAS First Year Mathematical Science Rising Star Prize to the SAS Third Year Work Integrated Learning Prize.

RMIT University


RMIT University designed its mathematics and statistics curriculum to produce graduates that employers want.


Adopting SAS – "software that appeared to be the industry standard"


Workforce-ready graduates arrive on the job with experience of applying advanced analytics to address real-world issues.

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