Ajay Kumar


Masters in Major Programme Management







By Ajay Kumar

What no one tells you about Major Programme Management —The first week

“…and therefore major programmes are different”, I concluded. At this point I had read the essay over twenty times and I knew where each word was. In fact, the past few weeks I had been thinking so much about the essay that every time I had a conversation with the wife, I felt an innate need to cite my sources! — This Chinese restaurant has better food (Zagat reviews, 2015: Accessed on…)

Knowing that I had given it my best, I sent the essay off to be graded. It was Monday, the 2nd of November and just five weeks earlier, I joined sixty other people from various parts of the world when we began our journey into the geek-sounding world of ‘major programme management’.

Going to university as a slightly older student is different. For starters you don’t have parents warning you about drinking and hanging out with the right people. But still, walking into class on the first day, felt no different than it did ten years ago. As I made my way around the room introducing myself, one of the things that I quickly realized was the sheer diversity in the room. Not only were the members of the cohort from over thirty countries, but they were also from very, very diverse professions.

The first few people I met were — someone from the CIA, a senior police officer, an ex-diplomat, and an Admiral. Not only was the experience very humbling but quickly I came to understand what I had been hearing all along — ‘education at Oxford is what you make of it’

Having done my walk around of the classroom, and now feeling like the ‘pale blue dot’ in Voyager 1’s famous picture of the earth, I proceeded to my desk. Now, having taught project management to corporates for the past five years, I truly believed that this was one subject that I truly knew something about. In the first fifteen minutes, my belief was shattered and by the end of the day, I was convinced that I knew nothing.

Two days into the course, the cohort ‘matriculated’. “Matriculation” in Oxford-speak is the ceremony whereby students gain official membership of the University of Oxford. Before today, each student was only a member of their respective college. However, once a student “matriculates” they then become a member of the University of Oxford for life. It means you will always be able to use the Bodleian Library and when you graduate you will be a member of Convocation and able to elect the Chancellor and the Professor of Poetry. As a part of the matriculation ritual, we all had to wear a ‘sub-fusc’

ajay 1

ajay 2
A number of myths surround subfuscs — for example, that subfusc has a counterpart in ‘full fusc’, said to be a full suit of armour, which if worn to Final examinations automatically results in a student being given a First Class; a story goes that one enterprising undergraduate student examined the University statutes prior to an examination and discovered that all students sitting exams in full fusc are entitled to a glass of sherry. He demanded his due in the exam, and the University’s Proctors duly responded, before fining him one shilling for failing to wear his sword, allegedly also part of the archaic statutes.

At matriculation, the University Dons and Proctors said in Latin (very solemly):

‘Scitote vos in Matriculam Universitatis hodie relatos esse, et ad observandum omnia Statuta istius Universitatis, quantum ad vos spectent, teneri.’

‘Know that you are today added to the Roll of the University and bound to obey all the statutes of this University so far as they apply to you.’

ajay 3


On the third day, the Dr. Eamon Molloy’s classes began — not only were some of the common paradigms and misconceptions of project management shattered, we were taught why the profession had taken on a single dimension in thought. Everyone in the room chimed in with their stories and this made the entire experience interesting and illuminating. That night, we had our formal cohort dinner at the Kellogg College, where we met the president of the college, Prof. Jonathan Michie . During dinner, we also elected our class reps and the social queens, who promised to help keep the class cohesive.

ajay 4

ajay 5The rest of the week went like clockwork, the mornings and afternoons were spent in class and in the evenings, we went out in groups, looking for fun things to do around Oxford.

On Saturday afternoon, we were given our final assignments and told our deadlines. This was liberally sprinkled with even more ominous warnings about plagiarism. We said our good-byes and went back to our lives —the only difference being that we had now firmly put in place the foundations of what I believe will be a two-year journey, in the transformation of our minds.

Back to top of article

Share this post:

follow us in feedly