TREA­SURE HUNTERS

Financial Mail - - COVER STORY / BUSINESS SCHOOLS - David Fur­longer fur­longerd@fm.co.za

Ex­ec­u­tive ed­u­ca­tion has be­come the real money-spin­ner of busi­ness schools, and with for­eign uni­ver­si­ties and fi­nan­cial ser­vices firms en­ter­ing this lu­cra­tive mar­ket, com­pa­nies and gov­ern­ment de­part­ments look­ing to im­prove their man­age­ment and lead­er­ship skills have more choice than ever. But among the chal­lenges schools face as they scurry to dif­fer­en­ti­ate them­selves, is the chang­ing def­i­ni­tion of man­age­ment’s role

Long John Sil­ver, the cun­ning, blood­thirsty pi­rate of Trea­sure Is­land, would be at home in the hal­lowed halls of busi­ness school academia. Schol­arly in­no­va­tion and thought lead­er­ship may be the heart of busi­ness schools, par­tic­u­larly those within uni­ver­si­ties, but it’s money that ul­ti­mately gets the blood pump­ing.

The multi­bil­lion-rand ex­ec­u­tive ed­u­ca­tion mar­ket en­cour­ages cut-throat com­pe­ti­tion. Com­pa­nies and gov­ern­ment de­part­ments are con­tin­u­ously look­ing for providers to in­stil man­age­ment and lead­er­ship skills into staff at all lev­els — from ju­nior su­per­vi­sory up to the board­room.

SA is painfully short of th­ese skills, par­tic­u­larly at a time of eco­nomic and po­lit­i­cal un­cer­tainty when no-one knows what to­mor­row may bring and when tech­no­log­i­cal ad­vances are rein­vent­ing the busi­ness land­scape. Com­pa­nies are des­per­ate for guid­ance.

There is no short­age of will­ing providers. But there is a di­chotomy. Busi­ness schools ex­ist, in prin­ci­ple, to serve aca­demic ex­cel­lence — some­thing they achieve with con­sid­er­able suc­cess. The num­ber and qual­ity of masters, doc­toral and PHD grad­u­ates pro­duced in SA each year at­tests to this.

But they also serve Mam­mon, the god of money. Clients are will­ing to pay hand­somely for their knowl­edge and ex­pe­ri­ence. SA schools at­tract cus­tom not just from within SA but from around the world.

So ac­tive is their pur­suit of rev­enue that, not long ago, a fac­ulty dean com­plained that the “cash cow” school in her charge was sul­ly­ing the aca­demic rep­u­ta­tion of the univer­sity at large and should be ab­sorbed into an­other, larger school.

Most univer­sity ad­min­is­tra­tors aren’t com­plain­ing. Stran­gled higher-ed­u­ca­tion rev­enue streams have been made worse by the #feesmust­fall cam­paign, so they wel­come the in­come their schools gen­er­ate. While MBAS and other post­grad­u­ate de­grees bring in some cash, ex­ec­u­tive ed­u­ca­tion is the real money-spin­ner.

How­ever, Jon Fos­ter-ped­ley, dean of Hen­ley SA, says schools must be ma­ture enough to avoid an at-all-costs

What it means: Schools must un­der­stand their strengths, know what they are good at and choose an area where they can make an im­pact

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