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