Vinessa Naidoo. Picture: FREDDY MAVUNDA
Vinessa Naidoo. Picture: FREDDY MAVUNDA

Vinessa Naidoo’s enthusiasm is admirable. "I want us to be seen as a top-class, niche MBA provider," says the acting director of the Tshwane University of Technology (TUT) Business School. "I think we offer an excellent product. A number of our graduates have told me the programme was a life-changing experience."

The challenge is to turn wish into reality. Despite the TUT MBA having been accredited for several years, the profile and brand image of the school’s course are low. Market research for Ranking the MBAs shows very limited employer recognition of the programme.

Graduates with a TUT MBA are complimentary about course content but their main reasons for choosing TUT were affordability and location; it operates from a Pretoria city-centre building. Tellingly, 73% would have preferred another school if price and location were not issues. It is the only school not on the wish list of graduates from at least one other school.

In many respects, TUT is going through what other university schools experienced some years ago. It is tightly controlled by the main TUT university, with little operational or budgetary autonomy. Other schools came into their own only after their main campuses eased their restraints and recognised that business schools are unique operations within universities.

The TUT school is effectively an MBA provider. It has no executive education, and even postgraduate diplomas (PGDip) in business-related studies are provided elsewhere in the university. This matters, because a new national MBA regime introduced in 2016 no longer accepts ordinary bachelor’s degrees as an MBA entry qualification. Instead, graduates with such degrees must undertake a PGDip before starting an MBA. So it makes sense for the same institution to teach what are complementary programmes.

There is time to change. The TUT school continues to run its old, three-year, part-time MBA, which accepts bachelor’s degrees. Though Naidoo says she hopes to introduce the new qualification from the beginning of 2017, there is still a lot of administration and planning to do and the school will do well to have the new MBA ready by January. But a further delay won’t be a disaster. As explained in another article in this cover story, business schools will be allowed to run the old programme for three further years.

Naidoo, who has been acting director for more than two years, says her school’s position in Pretoria makes it a natural choice for government officials, who account for 70% of its MBA students. Many of the others come from other TUT degree courses. Maybe that’s why the school has done so little marketing in the past.

Naidoo says she wants to promote the school to a broader audience. "If we don’t tell people about ourselves, how can they learn about us? We’ve got to get our name out there."

The TUT school has three full-time faculty and can also call on about 50 academics from the main university. This year, 65 students enrolled for the TUT MBA which, at R85,000 for the full programme, is the cheapest of any SA university school.

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