Stellenbosch University. Picture: SUNDAY TIMES
Stellenbosch University. Picture: SUNDAY TIMES

The University of Stellenbosch Business School is cutting 2021 fees for several of its postgraduate programmes. The school says it will pass on savings created by its move towards “blended” learning, which combines traditional classroom teaching with online tuition.

Programmes affected are postgraduate diplomas in leadership development, futures studies and business management & administration. MBA programme head Jako Volschenk says savings include reduced travel and accommodation expenses.

MBA fees will be unaffected. There will be one major change, however. The full-time Stellenbosch programme will no longer be available. Despite being named in one study as the best full-time MBA in Africa, Volschenk says the school can no longer justify it. Around the world, full-time numbers are down as students seek a more flexible way of learning that doesn’t require them to give up work and earnings for a year.

“The full-time MBA no longer delivers what the market wants,” says Volschenk. “Students say they have their heads permanently in books and don’t have time to breathe. They say the pressure’s not worth it.” But he adds: “Funnily enough, four years later, when their career has taken off, they think differently.”

Some schools have held on to their full-time programmes to retain international accreditation by the UK-based Association of MBAs (Amba). Now that Amba CEO Andrew Main Wilson has said full-time is no longer a prerequisite, the pressure is off.

Stellenbosch’s 2021 MBA may be unaffected by fee reductions, but there were savings this year because of Covid-19. Travel restrictions caused the programme’s international study tour to be cancelled, saving students over R70,000 each.

Volschenk says those affected were offered the chance to travel in 2021. Of 177 students, only six accepted after it was explained this would delay their graduation by a year. The trip contributes only a few of the academic credits required for graduation but some people consider it a core part of the MBA experience, says Volschenk.

Like other schools, Stellenbosch moved its programmes online this year because of Covid. “We hope to be back on campus in 2021 but we don’t know yet what will happen,” he says.

The school’s specialist elective courses in health-care leadership attracted a number of students from the health-care sector. Their involvement in the fight against Covid placed them under “huge strain”, says Volschenk, and persuaded the school to allow them a month’s break from the programme.

Other students also faced Covid-related issues, leading to requests for extended work deadlines and delayed course payments. “We have been as flexible as we can in our response,” he says.

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