Picture: 123RF/FRANNY ANNE
Picture: 123RF/FRANNY ANNE

Covid-19 has “opened the eyes” of business schools to the importance of providing would-be entrepreneurs with a solid business grounding, says Helena van Zyl, director of the University of the Free State Business School.

Cash flow, finance access, adaptability, resilience, creativity and innovative thinking have always been at the heart of business success. Experiences of the past few months have reinforced the fact, says Van Zyl.

However, she says entrepreneurs have a better chance of success in an “enabling environment”. A healthy economy “is the starting point for any business to be successful”, in tandem with a supportive environment created by government.

In the absence of these conditions, entrepreneurs will need to find more proactive and future-orientated business ideas. Van Zyl adds: “Even big corporates will have to rethink their business models. Remote working has become reality and will have a huge impact on the use and availability of infrastructure.”

The pandemic has also forced business schools to rethink their teaching models. Like its competitors, Free State has taken a more online approach to its Master of Business Administration (MBA) degree. The school offers a two-year distance programme that usually includes five full-day classroom sessions each month. However, this has become mostly a “virtual” online classroom arrangement in recent months because of Covid-19 health restrictions.

The Free State school is the only SA business school accredited by the Central and European Management Association, an international association known as Ceeman. In addition, its MBA is accredited by SA’s own Council on Higher Education. At present the school has 89 students at various stages of their MBA studies and a further 40 studying towards a PhD.

Market research for the FM shows that the Free State school has the second-highest success rate of any SA business school for part-time students graduating on time. Like all schools, it allows an extra period of grace – in its case, another year – for students whose circumstances don’t allow them to complete the programme on time. However, 96% do so within the prescribed two years.

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