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

The University of Stellenbosch Business School Executive Development (USB-ED) company wants to extend its expertise into new manufacturing sectors, says CEO Chris van der Hoven.

"We’ve been consolidating since last year," says Van der Hoven, who succeeded long-serving CEO Frik Landman in June 2018.

He says USB-ED, a private company in which the university has a controlling stake, does not want to be "just another executive education provider" that tries to be "all things to all people". So while he is eyeing more involvement in sectors like pharmaceuticals, telecoms, online retail and automotive manufacturing, he says USB-ED wants to concentrate in areas "where we can make a difference".

USB-ED is not part of the university’s business school but the two complement each other "like the two hulls of a catamaran", he says. "There is a symbiosis."

Usually, business schools take direct responsibility for executive education. When the independent USB-ED model has been tried elsewhere, it hasn’t always worked. "At an African school that modelled itself on us, the system was mismanaged and abused," says Van der Hoven. "Executive education was quickly folded back into the mother institution. Our success is down to the diversity of our board and the focus on ethics. The university would reel in this business in five seconds if we thought we were putting the university’s reputation at risk."

Van der Hoven says business schools need to be more agile than universities in responding to a market where competitor schools and consultancies fight for business. He says of Deloitte’s decision to launch an SA business school: "I see this happening more in the future. Consultancies are already in the business education mix, so competition will intensify. This will put traditional schools’ feet to the fire and they will have to respond … quickly."