Jan van Romburgh. Picture: Supplied
Jan van Romburgh. Picture: Supplied

Has North-West University (NWU) Business School done enough to market itself to students and corporate clients? Director Jan van Romburgh doesn’t think so. But now he hopes a marketing and branding campaign will finally give the Potchefstroom-based school the profile it deserves.

In 2013, NWU became the first SA business school to break the international accreditation hegemony of SA’s traditional “big four” – the university schools of Cape Town, Pretoria, Stellenbosch and Wits – when its MBA was accredited by the UK-based Association of MBAs.     

That could have opened the door to a major student and corporate client recruitment drive. But though numbers have risen, Van Romburgh wonders if NWU could have done more. “Have we been silent for too long? Yes. Could we have built more actively on our international status? Yes.”

He says the marketing campaign, involving SA branding trailblazer Jeremy Sampson, is already bearing fruit. “We are making massive strides.” MBA applications are growing and he senses greater market awareness of the school beyond its usual catchment areas. But there’s plenty more to do. “We’re only scratching the surface so far,” he says.

Besides SA, NWU is also setting its sights on the rest of Africa. It is promoting short learning programmes in East and West Africa and pursuing accreditation by the Association of African Business Schools.

What the school isn’t doing, says Van Romburgh, is taking anything for granted. Business schools face a never-ending challenge to stay relevant. Professor and advisory board chair Raymond Parsons says: “People are already talking of the fifth industrial revolution. Not only do we have to run to keep up, but we also have to teach our clients to do the same.”

At NWU, that has meant the creation of an MBA curriculum panel that includes industry representatives. Van Romburgh says: “You need outside views. The environment is changing so fast that we need industry to tell us if we are teaching the right things. Even the most basic things are different. For example, part of the corporate conversation today is no longer about the location of a company’s offices, but about whether it actually needs any.”

NWU delivers its MBA through three campuses: in Potchefstroom, Vanderbijlpark and Mahikeng. Programme head Johan Jordaan says the “rigorous” selection process involves online tests and personal interviews.

He says the programme consists of 13 subjects and ends with a mini-dissertation on a business- or management-related topic. There is also a company project, where each student syndicate group selects an organisation or business for full analysis before proposing a strategy and implementation plan​.

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