Loughborough University
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Is operational research in UK universities fit-for-purpose for the growing field of analytics?

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posted on 2018-07-12, 08:10 authored by Michael J. Mortenson
Over the last decade considerable interest has been generated into the use of analytical methods in organisations. Along with this, many have reported a significant gap between organisational demand for analytical-trained staff, and the number of potential recruits qualified for such roles. This interest is of high relevance to the operational research discipline, both in terms of raising the profile of the field, as well as in the teaching and training of graduates to fill these roles. However, what is less clear, is the extent to which operational research teaching in universities, or indeed teaching on the various courses labelled as analytics , are offering a curriculum that can prepare graduates for these roles. It is within this space that this research is positioned, specifically seeking to analyse the suitability of current provisions, limited to master s education in UK universities, and to make recommendations on how curricula may be developed. To do so, a mixed methods research design, in the pragmatic tradition, is presented. This includes a variety of research instruments. Firstly, a computational literature review is presented on analytics, assessing (amongst other things) the amount of research into analytics from a range of disciplines. Secondly, a historical analysis is performed of the literature regarding elements that can be seen as the pre-cursor of analytics, such as management information systems, decision support systems and business intelligence. Thirdly, an analysis of job adverts is included, utilising an online topic model and correlations analyses. Fourthly, online materials from UK universities concerning relevant degrees are analysed using a bagged support vector classifier and a bespoke module analysis algorithm. Finally, interviews with both potential employers of graduates, and also academics involved in analytics courses, are presented. The results of these separate analyses are synthesised and contrasted. The outcome of this is an assessment of the current state of the market, some reflections on the role operational research make have, and a framework for the development of analytics curricula. The principal contribution of this work is practical; providing tangible recommendations on curricula design and development, as well as to the operational research community in general in respect to how it may react to the growth of analytics. Additional contributions are made in respect to methodology, with a novel, mixed-method approach employed, and to theory, with insights as to the nature of how trends develop in both the jobs market and in academia. It is hoped that the insights here, may be of value to course designers seeking to react to similar trends in a wide range of disciplines and fields.


Operational Research Society.



  • Business and Economics


  • Business


© Michael J. Mortenson

Publisher statement

This work is made available according to the conditions of the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International (CC BY-NC-ND 4.0) licence. Full details of this licence are available at: https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-nd/4.0/

Publication date



A Doctoral Thesis. Submitted in partial fulfilment of the requirements for the award of Doctor of Philosophy of Loughborough University.


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