Business schools, like all organisations, have to remain relevant and responsive and the GSB has done much to evolve its offering in recent years to ensure that it is able to maintain its position as the top business school in Africa.
“A business school cannot afford to be divorced from the context in which it operates. As an emerging market institution in a global world, we have to be responsive to the needs of the market – as well as the broader society,” says GSB director, Professor Walter Baets.
Key changes on the academic front since Professor Baets assumed office include an increase in full-time faculty, increased investment in the PhD programme and the launch of several new programmes including a Master’s Programme in Development Finance, an MPhil with a specialisation in inclusive innovation and an innovative Postgraduate Diploma in Management Practice. Changes were also made to the MBA programme with the addition of the Social Innovation Lab that now runs as an option on the MBA.
The Solution Space, which opened at the heart of the campus in early 2014, is in many ways a physical manifestation of this transition. Partly modelled on the antidisciplinary approach championed by the MIT Media Lab, the space is an innovation and entrepreneurship hub where learning and action converge to support the development and the incubation of new business models. The space provides a natural home for the school’s new entrepreneurship and innovation programmes and connects these to a wider innovation ecosystem.
Master’s in Development Finance
The UCT GSB, in partnership with the Africagrowth Institute (AGI), is now offering an MPhil (Development Finance) that aims to ensure that Africa produces enough development finance experts to meet the development needs of the continent. The first cohort of 40 students enrolled on the programme in 2011.
“The professional discipline of development finance is still in its infancy. This is worrying, considering that development finance provides vital support structures in financial management applications within governments, private sector institutions, non-governmental organisations (NGOs) and wider emerging markets,” says progamme director, Professor Nicholas Biekpe. Development finance as a professional discipline is widely practiced in major development finance institutions, including development banks, the World Bank, the IMF, the UN organs, regional and other country-specific development finance institutions, public and private sector institutions, other financial and non-financial organisations, international foundations and NGOs. All central governments around the world frequently use development finance as a professional discipline for the design and implementation of development policies.
MPhil with a specialisation in inclusive innovation
Launched in 2013, the MPhil is an interdisciplinary, research-based degree designed to enable people with big ideas to work collaboratively on the development of sustainable solutions to Africa’s most intractable problems. “Innovation is now firmly recognised as the key driver for growth in both developed and developing economies; but the reality is that the take-up of innovation in Africa, as a key solution to socio-economic issues, is low,” says Dr François Bonnici, director of the Bertha Centre for Social Innovation and Entrepreneurship at the GSB. “The MPhil is positioned to change this.”
Dr Bonnici says that the MPhil creates the conditions for creative people from across the spectrum of disciplines to work together on complex challenges in what is a vital first step in allowing innovation to thrive in Africa.
Unconstrained by set cultures or organisations, participants work together in a ‘living lab’ environment, where expertise, life experience, passion and innovation all converge to support new possibilities and ideas. In this rich, integrative space, commercial, technological and social innovations all combine to further Africa’s future.
Students are exploring inclusive business model innovation across several themes, including healthcare, education, finance, housing, the environment and sustainability. The solutions generated are, however, not limited to new enterprise creation, and could be taken up by government or civil society. “We are not placing limits on anything,” says Professor Kosheek Sewchurran, director of the Executive MBA at the GSB. “Our goal is radical innovation and sustainable solutions for Africa. We aren’t concerned with the shape or form these take – only that they work.”
The Social Innovation Lab
The Social Innovation (SI) Lab is a pioneering addition to the MBA programme at the UCT GSB that seeks to support and equip purpose-driven people looking to drive social impact in emerging markets.
Introduced in 2011, the lab is an initiative of the Bertha Centre for Social Innovation and Entrepreneurship, and runs in the second half of the MBA in terms three and four, following the core course. It draws on people and organisations throughout South Africa and internationally and immerses students, both theoretically and practically, in the field of social innovation. The six-month course is a dynamic academic, practical and personal experience. By the end, students will have formed their own approach to social innovation, and will have begun to develop the concepts, mindsets, skills and relationships that will enable them to continue to be effective social innovators.
In recognition of its innovative nature in integrating sustainability into management education, the SI Lab was featured in the Inspirational Guide for the Implementation of Principles of Responsible Management Education (PRME), published by the UN in 2012.
Postgraduate Diploma in Management Practice
The newest academic offering at the GSB, the Postgraduate Diploma in Management Practice, was launched halfway through 2014 to address the lack of qualified and skilled middle managers on the continent.
South African business schools offer excellent top-end and lower-end business qualifications –but there is a gap in the middle of the business education ladder. It is this gap that the new course seeks to plug.
“What we don’t see in South Africa is the kind of qualification that speaks to middle managers and young senior managers, which goes beyond functional insights to include deeper business and psychological understanding that traditionally come with longer and more expensive courses, such as an MBA. At this level, people need not only knowledge of finance and accounting, but also how to go beyond this and use it in a broader framework,” says director of the UCT GSB, Professor Walter Baets.
The PGDip is a pre-master’s programme that builds vital business skills for success in uncertain economic times. It consists of a choice between three specialisation streams: Innovative Leadership, Wine Business or Business Administration.
Saskia Hickey, UCT GSB market intelligence and strategy manager says: “the programme gives participants tools that allow meaningful reflection, challenging individuals on a personal as well as professional level.”
Hickey adds that an important difference between the new PGDip course and traditional management programmes is that in the PGDip there is real integration between subjects, which allows crucial insights into how sections like marketing, accounting and finance all come together in a company or organisation.
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