South African business schools fail test: thousands of business students in South Africa have been rocked by the announcement from the country's education authorities that their MBA certificates may not be worth the paper they are printed on. now, Tom Nevin reports, shrapnel from this decision has been flying in all directions.

Author:Nevin, Tom
Position:Business Education - South African Council on Higher Education
 
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At the stroke of a pen, the South African Council on Higher Education (CHE) has negated expensive MBA qualifications earned, or in the process of being learned, at business schools South Africa-wide. It ruled late in May that teaching at 50% of technikons and 75% of private institutions was substandard and they may no longer offer MBA courses.

The long and short of a tertiary education bombshell that has rocked the hallowed halls of business academia education and brought normally well-behaved business students out onto the streets, is that the qualifications of thousands of South African MBA holders might not be worth the certificates they're printed on.

A two-year probe into the quality of MBAs in South Africa by the CHE, a government-appointed body, has resulted in all institutions offering the sought-after business course being made to apply for re-accreditation as a means of weeding out substandard and fly-by-night operations.

In the end, 10 of the 27 institutions offering MBAs failed to qualify, five received full accreditation and 12 were conditionally recognised. MBAs in South Africa cost between R40,000 and R100,000 ($6,000-$15,000). Some of the deregistered institutions have threatened legal action against both the CHE and its higher education qualification committee.

However, all is not lost for those students who won their degrees at some of the institutions disqualified. Such qualifications will be recognised overseas in such countries as the UK and US.

Dr Dick Gerdzen is the founder of Business School Netherlands, one of the schools that had its accreditation reversed, and he maintains that CHE's survey fails to take into account new methods of learning. "We find that although our action-learning approach is different from traditional ways of teaching, companies see results," he says. "Our students are required to be in managerial positions and use action learning to analyse and find solutions to work-related problems. Too much weight has been given to a piece of paper and academic conditions and not enough to how it benefits the individual and companies."

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That point of view doesn't hold water with Dr Prem Naidoo, director of accreditation at the CHE, where a 25% research component is required, "and that's not particularly demanding", he maintains. "In any masters' degree the minimum research component is 50%. We cannot rely solely on global knowledge. We need workplace case studies relevant to our...

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