There were celebrations today (17 July) as the first cohort of students graduated from Asda's pioneering Retail Honours degree programme, which is run by the Institute for Work Based Learning at Middlesex University.
One of the first of its kind to be offered by a UK retailer, the three-year degree in either Distribution or Retail Operations is fully funded by Asda – enabling colleagues to learn while continuing their jobs.
Applicants are selected based on performance at work rather than academic qualifications – offering all colleagues who have worked at Asda for at least six months a chance to enhance their careers.
The course is flexible in nature, combining both work and class-based learning supplemented by online study and peer networking. Students on the Retail Operations degree study merchandising, the retail environment, managing and developing people, and retail operations to maximise a profit, while the Distribution programme focuses on supply chain management and logistics.
Umar Farooq, a Systems Operations Manager at Asda's Integrated Distribution Centre in Lutterworth, is just one of the graduates set to benefit from having studied for the new degree.
"I got the opportunity to excel at work by developing professional and academic skills," he says.
"For people who have never thought of or had the opportunity to pursue higher education at university level, this programme really does open a lot of doors."
Commenting on the degree's success, Middlesex University Vice-Chancellor Professor Tim Blackman praised the partnership between Middlesex and Asda.
"The graduation of Asda students provides an excellent example of how a large employer and a university can work collaboratively to deliver excellent results for the company and individuals," he said.
This sentiment was echoed by Hayley Tatum, Senior Vice-President, People at Asda (pictured above with some of the Asda graduates), who said: "Offering the opportunity to earn and learn is a win-win situation for both our colleagues and the business as a whole, as we're able to develop and nurture our own internal pool of talent."
Middlesex delivers work-based learning programmes for a number of other major organisations including Toshiba and Sony Mobile. Click here to find out more about the qualifications on offer.