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How to Evaluate The Variety of MBAs on Offer

So you’ve decided that you want to do an MBA. But how do you go about choosing the best and most suitable school for your needs?

Monique Verduyn

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Open evenings; chatting to alumni, faculty and current students; visits to the business school; word of mouth; research – there are a number of ways to investigate which business school is best for you. Rankings, accreditation and faculty research output are also critical considerations when it comes to making a well informed choice. Ultimately, it boils down to making sure you do the homework.

Read The Surveys

Prospective students need to choose wisely when it comes to selecting the right business school, says Tom Ryan, Associate Professor at the UCT Graduate School of Business. “A good place to start would be to look at surveys that hold institutions up for scrutiny,” he says. “International and local rankings and accreditations make a statement about the quality of an MBA programme and an institution. These reviews are particularly insightful when they are global, as they provide a global benchmark for what is on offer herein South Africa. For a prospective student, having an internationally recognised qualification may be desirable, particularly if they plan to work in other countries.”

For the prospective student who may be considering business schools overseas, understanding what South African schools offer in relation to their foreign counterparts can also break down preconceptions that “if it’s from Europe and America it must be better”.“International rankings and accreditations can help demonstrate to all SouthAfricans that we have the high standards and academic talent right here at home to match any business school in the world,” Ryan points out. From the experience of the UCT Graduate School of Business, which recently obtained its fifth consecutive ranking in the Financial Times Global MBA Top 100 in 2009 and ranked notably as the best value for money MBA in the world, this has certainly been the case. International comparisons such as this, in addition to international accreditations, have served not only to increase the numbers of local applicants, but also now begun to draw more international students to the UCT GSB.

Look Beyond The Rankings

Rankings and accreditations offer abroad perspective of the quality of a business school, but when it comes to selecting the right school, it is critical that applicants are also aware of alot more if they want to choose wisely.

“Bear in mind that a ranking is a relative assessment and there is very little that differentiates the top schools,” Ryan says. “A much deeper level of investigation is needed to understand different business schools’ areas of specialisation and excellence.They have different strengths and capabilities and each offers a unique value proposition and experience. Simply put, even the best rankings can’t tell you which institution suits your needs best. Prospective students need to beginwith a self-assessment and examine their motives carefully as well as their goals.”

Make The Right Choice

Ryan lists five elements that will help the prospective students choose the right school for their needs:

1. Understand the pedagogy – the learning methodology – of the business school in question.There are varying models for developing people and some may prefer didactic lectures and exams, while others may offer a greater level of classroom interaction and peer-to-peer learning.

2. Enquire about the average age and experience levels of the MBA class at the business school. At the UCT GSB, for example, the average MBA student age is 30 and most have over three years’ work experience and a successful track record. The school believes it’s important for a richer learning environment and higher levels of social learning.

3. Deciding on the right delivery format of the MBA is important. Prospective students need to understand what their needs are – are they looking for a full-time commitment or would a modular or part-time option work better? A part-time or modular model can help overcome funding challenges for some, enabling them to work and study at the same time; others may prefer a full-time MBA for the more immersive experience.

4. Ensure that the curriculum is relevant to your needs. Is the school engaging with the current challenges and opportunities in your areas of career interest?

5.Interact with alumni and harness information on a particular school to better understand the inner workings of the MBA experience. Speak to alumni and get their perspective and look at what employers say about the graduates they recruit. QS World MBA Tour and TopMBA.com conduct annual research of 400 business schools, 50 000 MBA applicants and 500 MBA recruiters, and this data can be useful as well. Their latest MBA Employer survey revealed that a small cluster of business schools in South Africa are demonstrating prominence amongst international employers.

The CHE Benchmark

A survey by topmba.com showed that between 1998 and 2000 the number of MBA graduates in South Africa increased by 80%. As a result of this, a plethora of new institutions entered the market to cash in on the demand.

As a result of the explosion in the number of institutions offering the MBA, in 2004, South Africa’s Council on Higher Education (CHE) completed an extensive re-accreditation of Masters of Business Administration (MBA) degrees offered in the country. The process has raised the standard of local MBA programmes.

The CHE’s MBA accreditation has improved the standing of South African MBAs internationally, with exhaustive measures undertaken to ensure that MBA programmes are up to scratch.

Monique Verduyn is a freelance writer. She has more than 12 years’ experience in writing for the corporate, SME, IT and entertainment sectors, and has interviewed many of South Africa’s most prominent business leaders and thinkers. Find her on Google+.

Company Posts

Rethinking Learning In The 21st Century

The changing world of work has disrupted the three elements of the traditional ‘career’: Expertise, duration, and rewards.

Wits Plus

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Vital Stats

Traditionally the concept of a ‘career’ was considered to include three elements:

  1. A career represented our expertise, our profession, and ultimately our identity.
  2. A career was something that built over time and endured. It gave us the opportunity to progress and advance.
  3. A career gave us financial and psychological rewards. It made life meaningful and paid us enough to live well.

The changing world of work has disrupted all three elements: Expertise, duration, and rewards.

A career can now be as long as 60 years; at the same time, due to rapid advancements in technology and the changes that bring about in the workplace, skill sets can become obsolete in as little as five years.

Increasingly, companies need to rethink the way in which careers are managed and learning opportunities are delivered, and many have already begun to overhaul their career models and L&D (Learning and Development) infrastructure in line with the digital age.

Related: Your Investment In Knowledge

Employees’ learning behaviour is also changing. In the past, employees were able to obtain the skills required for their career early on and as a once-off; now, the career itself is a journey of learning, up-skilling, re-skilling and continuous reinvention to remain relevant and to thrive in the changing world of work.

Older employees who studied at a time where most of one’s learning occurred prior to entering the workplace, find themselves working alongside millennials who place greater value on learning and progression rather than on earning potential as a first priority.

Eighty-three percent of the respondents surveyed in Deloitte’s 2017 Global Human Capital Trends survey say their organisations are shifting to flexible, open career models that offer enriching assignments, projects, and experiences rather than a static career progression.

However, in today’s fast-paced business world, even if companies are restructuring L&D delivery, no one is going to make you engage in a strategy that is essential to your future success – continuous learning. You will have to take the initiative yourself.

Noted self-help expert W. Clement Stone, in his many writings on this topic, recommended that one spends anywhere from a half-hour to two hours a day in study and thinking time. This tireless dedication, combined with an insatiable curiosity, will equip you to excel in the future world of work. What’s more, learning new skills and knowledge can be fun!

The good news for both companies and for employees is that an explosion of high-quality content and digital delivery models offers employees ready access to continuous learning. The Wits DigitalCampus offers a range of accredited and fully online short courses to support your continuous learning.

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Your Investment In Knowledge

When you understand the value of knowledge, in this world where technology is rendering previously expensive products or services much cheaper (and even free), it’s just a matter of getting more of it. Dedicate yourself to constant learning!

Wits Plus

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Vital Stats

Most people spend their lives collecting, spending, and worrying about money — so much so, in fact, that they say they “don’t have time” to learn something new.

However, some of smartest and busiest people in the world — Barack Obama, Warren Buffet and Bill Gates — all spend at least one hour a day on deliberate learning. They see what others don’t: That learning is the single best investment of our time that we can make. As Benjamin Franklin said long ago, “An investment in knowledge pays the best interest.”

When you understand the value of knowledge, in this world where technology is rendering previously expensive products or services much cheaper (and even free), it’s just a matter of getting more of it. Dedicate yourself to constant learning!

One of the very benefits of ongoing technological advances is that it empowers an accelerated and personalised learning experience that puts the learner in the driver’s seat. Modern learning harnesses the speed, power and ubiquity of digital capability. Online platforms, software and mobile devices means that the traditional hurdles to learning — such as income, status and location — have just about disappeared. Knowledge can now be gained by anyone with the passion to pursue it and the commitment to stick with it.

Related: Building Customer Relationships

We are only at the tipping point of what future learning technology can deliver. Artificial intelligence (AI) will transform all aspects of human capital management, including learning. Technology-enabled learning will be immediate and directly relevant to the task, for example:

  • personally tailored learning content and experiences delivered to you as and when you want or need them
  • chatbots and virtual assistants can source and categorise the information that you need for optimal decision-making
  • augmented and virtual reality simulations can provide a multi-sensory experience to speed up and embed learning.

Additionally, social connectivity already enables user-generated content to outpace and outstrip what traditional education and learning institutions can deliver.

Knowledge may be the new money but, unlike money, you don’t lose it when you use knowledge or give it away. Transferring knowledge anywhere in the world is free and instant. It’s fun to acquire and it makes your brain work better. It helps you think bigger and beyond your circumstances. It puts your life in perspective by essentially helping you live many lives in one life through other people’s experiences and wisdom.

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Entrepreneur Today

How Are South Africans Feeling About The Work Environment?

A new study reveals individual fear that their skills will outdate and a growing need for lifelong learning.

Andrew Johnston

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A research report by MasterStart has found that just 23.8% of working South Africans believe their current skills will keep them employed in ten years’ time. With the burgeoning Fourth Industrial Revolution accelerating the pace of change in the world of work, most South Africans are looking to ‘future-proof’ their careers. And for 95%, lifelong learning is the key to retaining relevancy.

Related: 15 Of The Best And Most Unusual Online Courses For Entrepreneurs

Based on a survey with a sample group of over 1000 people across varying demographics and industries, the MasterStart South African Workforce Barometer uncovered that – while artificial intelligence (AI) and robotic process automation (RPA) are on the radar – other factors are currently seen as more immediate factors impacting job retention.

Andrew Johnston, CEO of MasterStart says, “Our workforce is clearly concerned, but positively, our research revealed that people are aware that frequent upskilling and reskilling will aid them in remaining relevant and employable.

In a country where unemployment is an ongoing issue, it’s imperative that we empower people to future-proof their careers by making lifelong learning opportunities continuously accessible in order to bridge critical capability gaps and compete with global standards.”

Some pivotal findings in the report included:

  1. It’s tough out there: 80% of the sample believed the job market to be tougher now than it was ten years ago. People in media and marketing especially agreed with this (92.9%), along with those in the manufacturing (87.9%) and financial services (87%) industries.
  2. Why’s it perceived as so tough? Both macro and micro factors were listed, including the political and economic climate, increased competition, fewer employment opportunities and rapid change.
  3. Age and lack of skills are the biggest barriers: While age was referenced most frequently as a barrier to future employment – especially for those over 50 – in the 18-24 and 25-34 year old brackets, lack of skills was seen as the most prohibiting factor.
  4. People in IT and tech felt most secure about their skills: Collectively, just under half the sample felt they’d been held back by lack of skills. 30% of participants in IT and tech were completely confident their skills would survive the ten year test. Those in other industries were noticeably less secure.
  5. We’re not yet comfortable sharing our workloads with robots: Close to a quarter of respondents felt AI had already impacted their industry, but just under 20% said they were completely comfortable sharing their workload with robots or processes automated by AI. Surprisingly, 18-24 year-olds had the highest level of unease about this.

Lifelong learning is the best way to remain relevant

Whilst the Barometer found a workforce in a somewhat sombre mood, positively, people were putting plans in place to learn further to acquire the skills they need.

It was good to see that 80% of respondents were planning to study in the future, with self-enrichment being the primary motivator (66%), followed by the aspiration to get further and be promoted (54%) and the desire to keep abreast with industry-related changes (41%). 58% of people favoured online learning, and a number had already completed courses.

Johnston says, “This shows a workforce that’s committed to continuously learning the new hard and soft skills that’ll entrench the adaptability required to survive the breakneck pace of the workplace.”

Those that had already studied listed the ‘big gains’ as being:

  • Tangible results: like a salary increase, promotion, skills (to be more marketable), more experience and more opportunities.
  • Higher performance: like better knowledge, keeping up-to-date, better understanding of the way the workplace works, faster completion of tasks, and having to employ fewer people as they had the skills themselves.
  • Better motivation and soft skills: like being better at dealing with people, the ability to explain concepts to clients, and overall improved communication skills.

Johnston concludes, “Given the competitiveness of the market – which will only increase with the rise of automation – having a sought-after skillset is the best way to guarantee ongoing job retention.  This means using learning to get to grips with AI and RPA in order to build efficiencies and one’s overall value-add.”

He says we also need to consider providing alternate adult education programmes to give young people the best chance of gainful employment, “It’s important we make ongoing online learning materials easily accessible in ‘snackable’, bite-sized pieces to make learning easier.”

Lastly, he believes a lot of learning is up to corporates, “Providing ongoing executive-level education grooms great leaders and provides turn-key or customised solutions to bridge big capability gaps to foster greater efficiency, productivity and profitability. Our research shows that South Africans are hungry to learn – so companies that provide this opportunity will have a greater chance of talent retention, and attraction.”

To find out more, access the MasterStart South African Workforce Barometer report here.

 Related: 6 Free Courses That Can Help You Become A Successful Entrepreneur

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