Joburg Business School sets its sights high
Dean sets his sights high as the institute introduces new programmes for unemployed science and technology university graduates and public health-care administrators
Randall Carolissen isn’t one for modest ambitions. He wants Johannesburg Business School (JBS), of which he is dean, to go toe-to-toe with Pretoria University’s Gordon Institute of Business Sciences (Gibs) in providing executive and academic business education. “I consider Gibs to be our direct competitor,” he says.
There’s a problem with that. Gibs has multiple international accreditations, appears on global business school rankings, and, according to FM market research, is the first choice of SA employers and students. JBS, which opened its doors in 2017, can’t claim any of these. In fact, its brand recognition is among the lowest of any SA business school.
Carolissen isn’t fazed. If you don’t think big, you won’t achieve big, is his motto. Since he was appointed dean at the start of 2021, says the former SA Bureau of Standards, SA Revenue Service and National Student Fund Aid Scheme executive, JBS has made rapid progress. Major business institutions such as Standard Bank, MTN and BMW South Africa are seeking out the school’s executive education portfolio. Student demand for the MBA and other academic programmes is growing beyond expectations.
“When I arrived, no-one knew about us,” he says. “Now we have an active brand-building strategy.” That includes telling the market about the school’s new positioning. “When I looked at what other schools were doing, I thought their offerings were staid and not creating agile leaders,” he says. “I wanted us to break the mould.”
Digital transformation, and the change-management skills it requires, are at the heart of JBS education. “We dig into what it takes to be a leader in the future,” says Carolissen. “Bricks and mortar are no longer as important as technology.”
Annual executive education revenue, he says, has risen from R2m to R40m. New programmes include one aimed directly at chief financial officers. The school has received sponsorship to teach business education to unemployed science and technology university graduates to help them kick-start their careers.
With Johns Hopkins University from the US it is setting up an MBA programme for public health-care administrators. Overall demand for MBA and doctoral programmes is stretching capacity limits.“Our radical new direction has taken the market by surprise,” Cornelissen says.
JBS is part of the University of Johannesburg (UJ). Carolissen says that before signing up for his five-year tenure as dean, he had to be sure the university shared his vision. Some universities, he says, look upon their business school as an ATM to earn revenue for the university.
“That’s the wrong attitude. A business school should be considered a flagship to drive the university’s reputation.” UJ, he says, showed its commitment by making JBS a standalone faculty, giving it more flexibility to determine its own future.
“I told the university I wanted to be dean of a school that would have societal impact, but without harming academic integrity,” he says. “I think we are achieving that.”
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