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Record high MBA enrolments at SA business schools

Some of South Africa’s leading business schools have recorded high registration numbers for prospective students enlisting for a Masters of Business Administration (MBA) this year.

The same trend in increased registrations of MBA students is true also for the University of Pretoria’s Gordon Institute of Business Science (GIBS). According to GIBS executive director of marketing Howard Fox, the business school has experienced strong demand through 2013 and the beginning of 2014 for places on various MBA programmes. In light of the demand for an MBA qualification, GIBS has introduced two additional MBA programmes for 2014. This includes an extra part-time intake to accommodate increased demand. “We expect the total number of enrolled students for 2014 to increase by approximately 20% year-on-year,” says Fox.

Popular choice

Traditionally a hit with managers and professionals who want to beef up their management skills, an MBA is still in vogue for those looking to broaden their outlook on complex matters. President of the South African Business School Association (Sabsa) Professor Tommy du Plessis says students from across different professional industries apply for an MBA, as it is “still the most sought after qualification in the world”.  Fox says: “... It (an MBA) broadens a graduate’s vision and helps develop their skills and business acumen such that they can take on the general management role required to lead a division or entire organisation”. Competition for GIBS is more about quality, rather than quantity. Fox says amongst the top internationally accredited South African business schools, competition “isn’t for more students, so much as competing for the highest quality students”.

Entry requirement reforms

The current MBA qualification landscape is going through reform.  Entry requirements for an MBA will be bolstered across South African universities and prospective MBA students will now need to have a four-year long bachelor’s degree, post graduate diploma or honours degree. For entry into business schools currently, prospective MBA students must have a tertiary level degree, a minimum of three years’ work experience and write the Graduate Management Admissions Test (GMAT). Sabsa proposes boosting the MBA to a masters level – which will in turn bring the degree to a level 9 qualification and therefore increase its entrance requirements.  The Council on Higher Education initially proposed for an MBA to be considered at an honours degree, which means the qualification would be at level 8.

“If we want to continue as a level 8 qualification it would be detrimental to students,” Du Plessis told Moneyweb.  Du Plessis says there is buy-in by universities and vice chancellors towards the proposed reforms into the MBA structure. The new reforms will also bring a dual aspect to an MBA. Prospective students will have the option to enlist for a professional or academic MBA.  A professional MBA will expose students to real world problems, while an academic MBA will be research and course work-driven. “MBA is a more practical degree that deals with course work, the research is a small component. Thirty-three percent (of an MBA) should be research-focused and must look at a more professional aspect of an MBA,” he explains...

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