Some 106,500 university students in Spain are studying the versatile degree in Business Administration and Management (ADE), the equivalent of the population of Ourense or Reus, for example. A mammoth figure only at the height of Law, another career that is often not chosen by vocation but by discarding others, for the peace of mind that its different employment doors provide. But in hard times in the banking sector ―they have cut their workforces by 12,914 workers from 2019 to 2023 (6%)― and in full digital transformation with artificial intelligence expanding in all fields, the students of ADE, Economics ( 24,000 enrolled), Finance (11,200) and Marketing (16,000) see how they run the risk of being cornered because companies demand many graduates in engineering and careers in pure sciences. For this reason, universities are launching new degrees ―Business and Technology, ADE and Innovation Management, ADE and Computer Engineering or ADE and Data Science― while turning the contents of the subjects into traditional studies.
The careers in the economic area -share more than 60% of the agenda- total 157,200 enrolled, 11.8% of all students in Spain, so their future work is not a minor issue for universities. The new economic framework requires changes in teaching: according to an OECD estimate, between 2016 and 2030, 1.6 million jobs will be lost in the country, to be replaced by technology, but another 2 will be created, 3 million, with a net balance of 672,000 more positions. There will be a surplus of accountants, auditors, payroll technicians and financial analysts ―many with an economic degree―, and there will be a lack of specialists in the Internet of Things, cybersecurity, artificial intelligence and electronic commerce.
Felipe Romera, as director of the Andalusia Technology Park, which concentrates 25,000 workers in 650 companies in Malaga, observes the changes in the market and draws conclusions. “The knowledge acquired in traditional careers is good, but technology is changing a lot. Many posts are being created, but relevant plugins are needed. Graduates are missing two attributes: English and programming, ”he argues. In his opinion, “the base should be there from a very young age (from elementary school). The sooner the better. An economist cannot leave the career without knowing the techniques of artificial intelligence, cybersecurity, the blockchain… A minimum knowledge to be able to understand and develop a job”.
Romera collaborates a lot with Eugenio Luque, president of the Spanish Conference of Deans of Economics and Business. This recalls a study by the University of Malaga, his, which estimated 15 years ago at 40% the percentage of its graduates in careers related to the economy who worked in banking. Now, he admits, “banks don’t hire anyone, they file like soccer teams, from one bank to another. And then where an economist, one from ADE or Finance used to work, now other graduates come in. There is competition with computer scientists, mathematicians and even physicists”.
“Our graduates are sometimes underemployed, frustrated, poorly paid or unemployed,” confesses Luque. Five years after graduating in ADE, 55% earn more than 1,500 euros, 58% have a job at the level of studies and in 76.2% of the cases it fits their area of study, according to data from the Institute. National Statistics. In other words, 18% occupy a position in their field, but for which a FP or Superior FP degree is required. “Something has to be done within that framework. And it involves including new content and renewing the content of already existing subjects: artificial intelligence, programming, data analysis…”, lists Luque.
“ADE studies have not so much to reorient themselves, but rather to adapt to the new situation. The contents of the degree have to continue because, after all, companies will continue to need people to manage them, administer them, human resources…”, says Roberto Bande, dean of the faculty of the University of Santiago de Compostela (based in Lugo), much more optimistic than Luque. “But in matters of marketing, business organization, logistics or statistics, you have to add content,” he acknowledges. His intention is to take advantage of the fact that they are obliged to adapt the titles to Royal Decree 8/22 on the organization of university education to change the knowledge and learning results of the degree.
“But at the same time, in this technological revolution, new profiles are emerging. That is why we have created (in the 2020/2021 academic year) the degree in Business and Technology, which does not replace ADE, which will also continue to be demanded ”, continues Bande. The dean likes to say that these graduates “are going to act as translators in three areas: management, technique, and data interpretation.” And he gives an example: “If you want to carry out a marketing campaign, the computer scientist draws the numbers, the business and technology delegate digests them and prepares reports so that the management part can make decisions and draw up a strategic plan for the company.”
Skills beyond technology
The USC has been inspired by the degree in Business and Technology that was previously inaugurated by the public universities Carlos III and Autónoma de Barcelona. Other private companies (CUNEF, Alfonso X and Camilo José Cela) also offer it. Luque believes that economic titles are offered in too many centers, “it is skyrocketing”: “It is the first title that private companies implement due to its low cost if you compare it with Medicine.” The dean of Malaga warns of other skills beyond technology: “Many times the position of an economist can be filled by a graduate in Law, Social Work, Labor Relations or Tourism. In the end, the employer who employs does not know very well what each one does”.
Bande congratulates himself on the success of Business and Technology at USC, “we have already covered the first enrollment”, but without emptying the ADE classrooms. “In addition, we are recruiting people from outside Galicia.” Her problem is that students, without guidance, arrive via the Baccalaureate in Social Sciences when the scientist’s mathematics is more useful. “It’s better for programming, algorithm development, machine learning… It’s not done at the level of a computer engineering school, but it does have a certain degree of complexity.” Now they are working on a master’s degree “with a more technical or business aspect, depending on the origin of the student,” she says.
In Andalusia, a new degree cannot be opened without withdrawing another, and in Malaga 700 new students enter economic careers each year. So Luque believes that “eminently applied” subjects must be incorporated and that a mention of the electives taken appears in the title. They ruled out a double degree in ADE and engineering, because “the number of courses increased a lot, the demand could be less than expected and it did not justify the effort.”
Dean Bande believes that there is no reason to worry: “Companies are dying to get people with this (technical) profile, but they still need ADE’s commercial profile. We have just signed an agreement with a company that has just established itself in Lugo, dedicated to data mining (data exploration), and they tell us that they need people who know business and big data, but also ADE, because they have to talk to customers, sell the product, know business techniques. That leaves us very calm, it guarantees the survival of both titles”.
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