Thursday, September 16, 2010

South African Business School Expo hits Sandton

Why embark on an MBA? Does it add to your professional development or is it an expensive way of multiplying your stress levels? Crucially, how do you choose the institution that best fits your interests, your career objectives, and your budget? On September 9th prospective MBA students were able to ask these questions themselves and sample the offerings of some of the best business education institutions at the SABSA MBA Open Day at the Sandton Convention Centre.

A range of business schools put together displays manned with friendly and informative personnel eager to hand out their brochures, free pens and wrapped sweets. There was also a long programme of presentations and workshops running throughout the day focusing on a range of subjects such as the best companies to work for, and the challenges of transformation, corporate wellness, and strategic leadership.

Zimasa Koyana, right, answering questions about the Wits Business School’s offerings.

Many feel the MBA is worth the long hours, diminished family time and the added pressure and certainly its advantages are more multifaceted than simply boosting your CV. “The learning doesn’t end in the classroom; it is a much broader learning environment,” said Zimasa Koyana, of Wits Business School. With extensive use of case studies and integrated learning, not to mention the huge potential for networking, the MBA has benefits that extend beyond the curriculum, she said.

Koyana noted that most graduates leave their initial degrees having specialized in a particular academic discipline - whether it is accounting, history, or IT - that taught them specialised skills. “The MBA moves them from that specialised space to the general management space so that they can better understand how their skills fit together in the working world,” she said.

UCT GSB's Segran Nair, right, took a holistic view of the MBA.

Segran Nair a Director of the University of Cape Town’s Graduate School of Business emphasised that the degree was not a shortcut to a fat pay check. “You come to a business school not purely to achieve success, but to be transformed,” he said. Apart from the academic rigour of the programme, UCT GSB also integrates personal and leadership development, and even yoga and meditation classes into its programme to help maintain the balance between learning and improving one’s state of mind.

In addition to the MBA, many schools offer a postgraduate diploma in management, which is aimed at recent graduates or those with one-to-three years of work experience. These are typically individuals who are looking to fast-track their way into the world of business, but who are unwilling or unable to pursue the full MBA.

At schools such as Wits or the Gordon Institute of Business Science (GIBS) for instance, the graduate diploma can form the foundation for an MBA further down the line, sometimes contributing credit towards the higher degree. Should students excel academically in the diploma they can potentially be accepted for the MBA if they wish to further their studies (conditional upon a 65% aggregate in the case of GIBS). If students are unsure about whether an MBA is right for them, they can always leave with the more basic qualification and still benefit immensely.

GIBS staff members were kept busy by a multitude of interested perspective students.

Shaun Rozyn, Director of the Company Specific Programmes at GIBS, drew attention to the fantastic opportunities that being part of an MBA alumni network can bring. “It gives you the chance to benchmark and to ask yourself ‘How good am I?’” he beamed, referring to the dynamism that comes with brainstorming and problem-solving with some of the brightest up-and-comers in various industries. Rozyn says that the University of Pretoria, the school’s umbrella body, gives GIBS the freedom to respond to market needs by giving it a measure of autonomy.

Letisha Greyling, left, and Owen Skae, right, of Rhodes Investec Business School emphasised sustainability: even encouraging visitors to recycle their sweet wrappers.

Prof. Owen Skae of the Rhodes Investec Business School emphasised his institution’s focus on environmental sustainability, which he said is integrated into all facets of the course. I asked him why somebody based in the metropolitan centres would want to journey all the way to Grahamstown to complete an MBA. He replied that many residents of Johannesburg and Cape Town make their way down to the Eastern Cape, and that the modular block release format of the degree allows them to spend as little time away from home as possible. The beauty of the campus and the youthful atmosphere of the town were big drawcards, he said, as well as the backing of a major financial service provider.

Whether you are a fresh graduate, a mid-level manager or a director, there is always potential to learn, interact and create within the business school environment. You have to be ready for it financially and intellectually – and also ensure that you time your studies to coincide with a strategic point in your career.


Photos: David Ansara


This report first appeared on MBAnetwork, an information portal and networking site for potential and current MBA students in South Africa.


  1. If I get given enough wrapped sweets and free pens I might just go for it.