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Kobus Jonker: Director of Tshwane School for Business & Society. Picture: Supplied
Kobus Jonker: Director of Tshwane School for Business & Society. Picture: Supplied

As long as there’s a need for leadership and responsible management in SA – and both look like they will be in short supply for a very long time – there will also be a need for MBAs, says Kobus Jonker, director of the Tshwane School for Business & Society.

MBAs are about practical solutions to real-world problems, he says. As the school’s name suggests, it will approach them from a “sustainability, environmental and social impact perspective”.

Tshwane’s emphasis appears to be paying dividends. Jonker says student interest in next year’s MBA programme was such that the school had to run two information sessions instead of one. As with most schools, actual registrations will be considerably lower, but with the introduction of a business postgraduate diploma as a bridging course towards the actual MBA, Jonker believes a durable student pipeline is being created.

“I think we will get overwhelming support for the diploma,” he says. 

The MBA itself now runs over two years, rather than the previous three. Other “tweaks” are under way as the school, part of the Tshwane University of Technology, gradually creates its own identity.

One area Jonker is concentrating on is research. Unlike most master’s degrees, the MBA allows a professional, not an academic, approach. Jonker likens it to a management report, rather than a traditional dissertation.

“MBA research is not intended to encourage theoretical thinking or to be a stepping stone towards a doctorate,” he says. “It is meant to teach students to solve problems in a structured, scientific way.”

He disagrees with the idea that by moving almost exclusively online because of Covid, and losing the face-to-face elements that used to define it, the MBA is no longer what it was. “There’s a huge need in SA for leadership and management development, which the MBA is uniquely placed to meet. The fact that much of the teaching is now online doesn’t change that.”

However, he’s nervous of the fact that online teaching makes it easier for overseas business schools to tout for SA MBA students. “It’s a real threat,” he says. “I hear a lot of people say they want to do their MBA overseas. Even if the university offering it isn’t highly rated, there’s this idea that because it’s overseas, it must be better than SA. It’s not. We have excellent schools in SA.

“Before taking this route, any student should ask themselves if the course content is relevant to their career in SA or the rest of Africa. In many cases it will have zero application.”​


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