AABS Accreditation for African business schools – a new focus on impact
“There is a real desire for African business schools to be more relevant to the African context, and to produce graduates whose work will be more impactful. It is a shift away from what has been done before,” said Professor Walter Baets, director of the UCT Graduate School of Business (GSB) and current AABS chairperson.Accreditation is big business in the business school world with top schools around the world investing much time and energy into acquiring it – particularly from the top three: AMBA (Association of MBAs); EQUIS (from the European Foundation of Management Education) and AACSB (Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business).
“It is considered a mark of distinction to have triple-crown accreditation from all three of these bodies. To date, just three African business schools have achieved this, of which the GSB is one – partly because it is an expensive and time-consuming process and not all schools have the resources to pursue this. But we are also questioning if what they are measuring – and rewarding – is absolutely relevant or useful in an African context,” Baets said. He added an Africa-focused accreditation model will enable African business schools to shape entrepreneurial thinking for the continent’s future.
“The situation in Africa is such that innovation will have to deal with very specific issues,” he said. “In general, we will have to be able to do more, for less, which is not the classical focus of innovation,” Baets said.
Grace Mugo, recently appointed as accreditation development project manager at AABS – based at the GSB, says the goal of the AABS accreditation system in setting benchmarks of quality business and management education is to aid African business schools in supporting inclusive social economic growth in Africa. The benchmarking focuses on the relevance and quality of the inputs and the consequent impact made by the output. “Significant emphasis is given to the relevance of a school’s offering and progress in meeting the needs of its stakeholders in the context of the local operating environment so as to make a meaningful difference,” Mugo said.
The following GSB courses are now accessible online and part-time, via GetSmarter’s cutting-edge Virtual Learning Environment:
- Values-Based Leadership
- Business Innovation
- Entrepreneurship for Emerging Markets
According to GSB director, Professor Walter Baets, the move is critical for the survival of business schools today – especially those operating in emerging markets.
In addition to the new streams in retail and health care management, students on the programme can now choose between five specialisation streams including social innovation and entrepreneurship, wine business management and business acumen. Course convenor, Dr Elanca Shelley said there is a need for more specialised study options in South Africa because of the complexity of the challenges that different sectors face. “We know, for instance, that managers in health care in South Africa need to understand policy and regulation as well as how to operate with limited resources,” she said.
Not all doom and gloom in education
While the South African education system is underperforming in many areas, there are numerous schools and organisations that are getting it right. The review showcases innovators that have proved their impact in addressing the key challenge of improving access to quality education for those who need it most.“The poor outcomes of our education system have driven a huge and promising response from South Africans to develop innovative models to improve both the quality and outcomes of the system,” said Dr Francois Bonnici, director of the Bertha Centre. “We’ve uncovered what is being done by over 120 programmes to address the challenges in the education sector. This research was then taken deeper by identifying the components of these models that have impacted the system, in order to share the learnings of the innovations in our publication.”
GSB duo win inaugural AABS/Emerald Case Writing Competition
The AABS and Emerald Group Publishing case study competition was launched in March this year in order to encourage and promote the development of high-quality teaching material that is African-specific. To meet the submission criteria, cases needed to focus on real-life situations in Africa.According to Ronnie, emerging market case studies are essential learning tools for postgraduate students at the GSB, but that there is currently a dearth of suitable African-specific material from which to draw.
“We need more examples of how organisations function on our continent, what our unique management challenges are and how these might best be approached and solved,” she said. Their winning case study, M-Pesa: An evolution in organisational strategy, focused on Vodacom South Africa that recently implemented a change in business strategy from typical mobile telecommunications, to include financial services, which has seen great success in the last few years across the continent.
It has been a good year for both Ronnie and Cassim, with Ronnie being selected for a UCT Distinguished Teacher Award in December 2014 and Cassim receiving the 2014 Old Mutual Gold Medal for her outstanding academic achievements on the MBA.
Cassim was also named by the South African Institute of Chartered Accountants (Saica) as a finalist in the 35-under-35 most outstanding young chartered accountants in South Africa in 2014.
An MBA for a better world
The Corporate Knights organisation based in Toronto, Canada, focuses on promoting an economic system with strong social development ties. The organisation’s Toby Heaps said that the GSB was among some of the world’s top business schools identified for its socially and environmentally aware MBA programme. GSB director, professor Water Baets said the business school is delighted by the announcement. “Achieving sustainable growth in a world of constrained resources and economic instability is one of Africa’s biggest challenges and the GSB wants to help ensure that the continent’s future business leaders find innovative solutions,” he said.