Waterstones Academy

You may remember a post we ran last Monday about Waterstones Academy, a sort of university for retail booksellers that looks as if it may be launching in England sometime later this year. Waterstones, for those of you not familiar with the name, is a UK-based bookstore chain with some 288 locations dotted throughout the UK and mainland Europe.

Waterstones AcademyCourtesy of The Bookseller, we learned that the nine-month-long program, assuming it happens, will be operated through a partnership with the University of Derby, a public school located south of Manchester that’s currently home to a little over 22,000 students. (The Academy will also be accredited through the University of Derby.)

We’ve since learned that Waterstones Academy will be running a pilot version of the program this April with just 80 students. The course of study will be the same for each student; they’ll be “undertaking three modules of three months’ duration each,” according to The Bookseller. And the names of those modules? Engaging Your Customers; Selling to Customers; and Winning Customers. Students who pass the nine-month course “will receive a certificate equivalent to a Level 4 qualification, or the first year of an undergraduate degree.”

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I was initially under the impression that Waterstones Academy would eventually become a school open to any student who qualified. But after learning a bit more, I’m not actually sure if that’s the plan. A senior learning and development manager for Waterstones, Emma Brown, explained that “the pilot is for us to see who is going to get the most out of this. After the pilot, it will become widely available in the company to anyone who wants to get that qualification.”

In other words, it sounds as if the Academy may actually be an internal management-track training program for current Waterstones employees. I thought it was meant to be an institution of higher learning for people who wanted to work in bookstores when they grew up, which would quite possibly be the most enjoyable university on planet earth. (Please tell me I was right the first time, Waterstones!)

At any rate, as interesting as this story may appear, it seems as if it’ll have to remain a mystery for the time being. Aside from mentioning that “the Academy won’t cost our booksellers anything to take part in,” a Waterstones PR rep I contacted, Jon Howells, kindly declined to share any further information about the program. “[The April course will] be a trial,” he wrote in an email, “so we don’t want to do any wider interviews at the moment – let’s let it bed in first.”



  1. “Public school” has quite a different meaning in Britain to the US. What you mean is that the University of Derby is a state-run tertiary institution.

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