Q&A: Changing of the guard at UFS Business School
The University of the Free State Business School is under new leadership, says programme manager and former acting director Liezel Massyn
FM: What changes are happening at the school?
Massyn: Prof Helena van Zyl retired as director after 18 years. A new director, Dr Udesh Pillay, began on October 1. We are revisiting the curriculums of our formal programmes, including the MBA, and will offer them from 2022. Our postgraduate diploma has undergone many changes, introducing modules on digital transformation, entrepreneurship and ethics and governance.
FM: Last year the Covid impact on MBAs was still relatively fresh and schools were unclear how to respond. Have you decided how you will run programmes in the future?
Massyn: Formal programmes will offer a more blended approach. How the blend will look is in a planning phase, but students will not have to be on campus as often as in the past. This will be replaced with virtual contact.
FM: Has the MBA experience changed irrevocably?
Massyn: The pandemic has forced us to rethink what we are doing, and why. It has also created opportunities. Because the MBA must provide a forward-looking approach and develop leaders that can adapt and manage these unprecedented challenges, the MBA must be robust enough to equip those leaders.
FM: Do you expect to see more overseas business schools offering MBAs in SA now that online teaching has opened up the market?
Massyn: There will be more marketing and I think some South Africans will take up this opportunity. But you need to do your homework, check foreign institutions’ credentials and consider what you’d like to get from the MBA. Do you want to be locally relevant or position yourself internationally?
FM: Globally, more schools are offering specialist, sector-specific MBAs. SA prefers generalist programmes. Is there scope for more specialisation here?
Massyn: SA’s economic, political and socioeconomic environment requires generalist management training more than specialist training. Experience has taught us that a general MBA is more in demand than a specialist one.
FM: A shortage of qualified supervisors, who support students in their academic research, is hampering efforts by some schools to attract more master’s and doctoral students. Is this a problem for you?
Massyn: This is a challenge across the entire higher education sector. The SA Business Schools Association is doing a great job in creating opportunities for supervisor development. But this is only part of the challenge. More demands are being made on academics who might be supervisors. They are under pressure to change the way they teach because of Covid, but also to publish more research in top-rated journals. With all these additional demands, it will become more difficult to find qualified supervisors.
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