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Social Statistics

Dr Andrew Milward

Milward & Partners Ltd – research and consulting in organisation development

MSc Social Research Methods and Statistics (2008) 

In 2005, at 48 years of age, I returned to The University of Manchester to study part-time for the MSc in Social Research Methods and Statistics at the Cathie Marsh Centre for Census and Survey Research (CCSR) - now known as the Cathie Marsh Institute for Social Research.

I am owner and Chief Executive of a research and consulting practice, a business I started in 1992 after an earlier career in information technology and management consulting.

Our clients are typically multinational businesses with thousands of employees in many locations.

My academic background is in Behavioural Science (MSc), and Business Administration (MBA).

In 2005, I was also in the final stages of my PhD research in Management at Lancaster University Management School. Although I already had research experience, I was looking for a postgraduate course that would strengthen my skills in quantitative analysis to help me in my work, and with aspects of my PhD research. My search for a suitable course led me to CCSR.

I thoroughly enjoyed my time on the MSc Social Research Methods & Statistics at CCSR. 

  • The teaching and support is outstanding.
  • Standards are very high and the course is demanding, especially for part-time students with other responsibilities.
  • It is a good research foundation for someone who wants to do a PhD.
  • It provides an ideal training for recent graduates who aspire to a career in research or consulting.
  • The course is also well suited to anyone who wants to enhance their skills later in their careers.

What does your work involve?

My firm helps organisations to improve work performance by changing management practices and other workplace variables.

To do this we have to analyse the factors that influence how employees think, and approach each other and their work. Organisations are complex, hierarchical social structures embedded in a wider social milieu. To understand this complexity, researchers need skills in advanced analytical methods.

Why did you choose CCSR at The University of Manchester?

As a native Mancunian, I knew of the University's reputation as a seat of learning.

CCSR's research record and the status of the MSc as an ESRC recognised research training for PhD study were equally important factors.

Finally, the flexible, modular structure of the MSc was crucial. These attributes convinced me that the CCSR MSc offered everything I needed to strengthen my skills for my work and PhD research.

Which aspects of the course did you find most useful?

Various pathways are available on the MSc, depending upon the student’s interests. I chose the statistics pathway, since this was most useful for me.

The range of modules offered enabled me to blend courses to provide the right emphasis for my interests.

In addition to core modules in Methodology and Research Design, I took courses in the Design and Analysis of Complex Surveys, Multilevel Modelling, Longitudinal Modelling and Social Network Analysis.

For the dissertation, I completed a longitudinal analysis of the National Child Development Study, to model the relation between family context in adolescence and the onset of psychological disorder over the life course. This was an opportunity to apply statistical methods most useful to my professional work.

How has your degree helped your career?

My firm offers clients ‘predictive analytics’ – the capability to model the complex social structure of organisations and the impact of workplace variables on employee behaviour over time. This approach offers significant advantages over the usual employee surveys that businesses carry out.

Managers use our models to learn about social-psychological aspects of their organisation, and the changes they need to make to improve performance.

The learning I gained on the MSc has helped me to extend this capability into important new areas. It also helped with my PhD research, which I successfully completed in 2007.

Finally, the course is a great foundation for continual learning. Since graduating, I have continued to build on the skills I learned at CCSR.

What advice would you give to someone thinking of a career in organisational research and consulting?

It is possible for a new graduate to start a career in organisational research or consulting as a junior analyst in a consulting firm or research agency. 

It is though better to first gain experience in a functional role, such as Human Resources, Organisation Development, or Marketing. It is ideal also to have some experience of managing people.

The experience gained in functional and management roles is a good investment. It gives an understanding of the complexity of organisations enabling the consultant to solve client problems more effectively. 

What educational background is required for a career in organisational research and consulting?

A career in organisational research and consulting is suitable for numerate social science and humanities graduates as well as people with a background in science, business studies, mathematics, or statistics. 

An MBA or a specialist Master’s degree in a relevant subject area such as Organisational Psychology or Business Administration is a distinct advantage. To progress in any specialist research role, however, it is important to have a solid grounding in research methods and statistical analysis.

Related link

The Cathie Marsh Institute of Social Research