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Sussex students ready for national business challenge

* 24 February 2003 *

Sussex students ready for national business challenge

A team of Sussex students will put their business and management skills to the ultimate test this week in the national finals of the annual Universities Business Challenge.

The Challenge has given the team of five from the University of Sussex - Michael De-Graaff, Russell Goatcher, Essel Hagan, Alex Rankin and Stephen Readman - the chance to work as management consultants, making all the critical business decisions that affect a fictional company.

"I have been able to put into practice what I have been taught in lectures and tutorials," says Essel Hagan, who is studying business management alongside engineering. "I have learnt about what goes into the decision-making process within companies and how results are affected by bad decisions."

Undergraduate teams from universities across the UK compete to achieve maximum profit, acquire new business and enhance customer satisfaction.

"The Challenge gives a sense of working to budgets and schedules," says team leader Alex Rankin. "It illustrates that often a company has to react to things that are out of its control such as changes in the general environment like inflation, recession and unemployment."

The first round of the Challenge started last October when the team had to complete a number of email-based case studies, reflecting simulated company strategies through typical trading periods.

They needed to take into account not only the financial performance of the company, but also its responsibilities to its various stakeholders including suppliers, customers and employees. "The experience has given us the chance to apply our business acumen to a 'real' application," says Stephen Readman.

Having beaten off all the other universities in their group, the Sussex team qualified for one of six regional semi-finals on 6 February. At the Royal Navy Museum in Portsmouth, they beat teams from Bournemouth, Cambridge, Imperial College and Loughborough to go through to the grand final in London on 28 February.

"Our major aim is to have an enjoyable experience," says Alex. "There will be five teams in the final and we have as good a chance as any other."

The Universities Business Challenge is supported by Scottish Courage, Guinness, Knowledgepool, the Royal Navy, Vodaphone and IBM. "More Sussex students should try and get this experience because it is organised by good, experienced companies," says Essel. "The encounter also sharpens your business skills and gives you an added edge."

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