What is Business Studies A-Level about?
How did the founders of YouTube manage to create a business worth over £800m in less than two years?
Should Burberry have moved production to China?
Why is Toyota one of the few car companies to make any profit?
What should tobacco companies do to maintain sales if smoking is banned in the UK?
Should all the banks be nationalised?
What should be the key markets overseas for UK businesses?
These are the types of issues you might consider when studying Business Studies at A-Level. You will look at a number of different organisations facing different problems.
Essentially the course is about debating and decision-making in a business context and as such it develops invaluable skills whatever you want to do next.
What does the course consist of?
Richard Branson, Stelio Haji Ioannou and Bill Gates are all highly successful entrepreneurs – not forgetting other start-ups starts such as Levi Roots and his Reggae Reggae Sauce or Angry Birds creator Peter Vesterbacka. Not surprisingly we want to know how they came to be so successful – what makes an entrepreneur? Why do some businesses start-ups succeed but many others fail? What makes a successful business idea? These kinds of questions form the basis of the first unit at AS when we focus on business start-ups.
The second AS unit takes an established business and puts you in the position of the manager of that organisation. Your aim is to improve the effectiveness of the business by making decisions relating to marketing (how do you differentiate your coffee shop from everyone else's?), people (how do you select the right staff), operations (how do you make sure your products work properly and are not returned) and finance (how do you make sure you make a profit and have money in the bank when you need it?).
At A2 we look at bigger businesses and focus on the broader environment such as the economy, social trends and technology. What is the impact of the inflow of employees from Eastern Europe on UK firms? Should businesses worry about ethics? Are there more important things in life than profit? What opportunities do emerging markets create for UK businesses? At A2 we also consider the importance of managing change (a lesson the music companies and book publishers are grappling with at the moment with the rise of downloads) and the importance of leadership (think of how Michael O'Leary the chief executive at Ryanair has made this business so successful or the leadership styles of Steve Jobs and his successor Tim Cook. What about Willie Walsh at British Airways?).
For Unit 3 you need to analyse a particular business situation and recommend what the firm should do next – should you try to double the size of your business? Should you sell your stores and move online? Should you try to enter the Chinese market? To do well on this paper you need to be able to demonstrate the skills of a business consultant and come up with a plan that would really work.
The final unit has a research task where you study an important contemporary business issue such as business ethics or managing technological change; you also have to write an essay on a major theme such as business culture (why does Google allow staff to spend 20% of their time on independent projects?), information management (what does the supermarket do with the data from its loyalty card holders) and growth (why did Orange and T-Mobile merge together to create EE?)
What might the subject lead onto?
The A-Level provides a good ground in many subject areas and provides a breadth which enables students to go on to a range of degree courses including Marketing, Public Relations, Sociology, Accounting, Finance and Law. Many Business Studies students enjoy the subject so much they want to read it at university as a single subject.