UKZN Graduate School of Business and Leadership
UKZN is one of the country’s top research-led institutions, which means that MBA students have the benefit of being taught by academics who are conducting and publishing cutting-edge research in their particular fields and who bring ground breaking knowledge and thought leadership into the classroom
A Beacon Of Continuity and Excellence
Since the launch in 1974 of the Master of Business Administration (MBA) at the former University of Durban-Westville – the first MBA to be offered at a historically disadvantaged university in South Africa – the programme has typically attracted more applicants than it can accommodate. The internationally recognised degree is noted for its quality, relevance and appreciation of both the opportunities and the limitations of business in addressing some of the world’s most pressing problems.
A flagship degree programme of the Graduate School of Business and Leadership (GSB&L), the MBA has prevailed in the wake of a series of historic developments: the end of apartheid, the merger of the University of Durban-Westville with the University of Natal as well as the phenomenal growth of MBA programmes in South Africa and around the world, to name a few. More recently, it has endured the advent of the COVID-19 pandemic, successfully navigating the global shift towards greater reliance on online and multimodal teaching and learning.
A coveted tool used for building existing workplace and leadership competencies, ongoing assessment of the relevance and applicability of the MBA in a changing national and global landscape has been critical to its success over the years.
In keeping with this commitment to introspection, a new MBA programme was launched in 2016 after a rigorous accreditation process. Placing greater emphasis on quality, depth, and contact with staff and course facilitators, the two-year, part-time programme offers leadership as a specific module. There has also been a significant reduction in the number of students accepted into the programme to ensure greater emphasis on quality of tuition and value for money, according to ‘Economics for Management’ lecturer Professor Mihalis Chasomeris, who spearheaded the development of the revised programme.
The Graduate School of Business and Leadership at UKZN undertakes periodic reviews and seeks international and national input into its programmes with a view to adding to its existing list of national, regional and international accreditations.
‘A literal journey’
According to Chasomeris, the MBA is a “literal journey”, offering value beyond academic achievement to include peer learning, and the acquisition of ‘soft skills’. “The MBA is definitely more applied than traditional degrees. Students are exposed to a broad and diverse network of fellow practitioners with a wealth of knowledge and experience from whom they learn; in the process they learn skills such as team building and group work, and they build relationships that can be lifelong,” he says.
The journey is also character-building: “Being a parttime programme, it is an intense experience for
students who are forced to grapple with real issues such as time management and achieving that elusive work-life balance,” he notes.
To ensure that the programme is informed by contemporary developments such as tax changes or the impact of the COVID-19 lockdown on the South African economy, along with fiscal and monetary responses to the economic recession, teaching by senior academic staff – many of whom serve as consultants to both the government and private sector – is supplemented in each module. Input and presentations are provided from at least two guest speakers who are industry leaders/decision- makers in their chosen field of business or advisers to national policy formulation.
Such input is often directly incorporated into student assignments, ensuring that learning is both relevant and applied. The school also invites thought leaders and speakers on a regular basis to deliver presentations on topical issues.
UKZN is one of the country’s top research-led institutions, which means that MBA students have the benefit of being taught by academics who are conducting and publishing cutting-edge research in their particular fields and who bring ground breaking knowledge and thought leadership into the classroom.
“The learning experience is not confined to textbooks. Our academic staff take things much further with reallife applications and adherence to the kind of standards required at international level. We go beyond the text, drawing upon the experiences of a network of academics in the programme – in addition to industry practitioners and guest speakers,” says Chasomeris. Students are encouraged to disseminate findings emerging from their own dissertations, some of which culminate in conference papers or as co-authored articles in accredited national and international journals.
The MBA programme attracts a broad range of students – and that diversity is also a strength. Some students are themselves university professors with specialist expertise in a particular field, while others are seeking to progress in their chosen career. Some have little to no business studies background, emerging from professions such as medicine, law and engineering. Having advanced to leadership positions within their professions, they realise the need for a deeper range of management and leadership skills, as well as a better understanding of economic issues. Yet others are seeking the entrepreneurial skills – and the mindset – required to start their own business.
Higher-order thinking skills
According to Professor Ana Martins, Interim Dean and Head of School, the Graduate School of Business and Leadership MBA programme harnesses higher-order thinking skills, enabling students to acquire greater business insightfulness.
“With the onset of COVID-19, these skills have been further augmented. This pandemic spurred greater mindfulness of the need to be agile, proactive, resilient, emotionally discerning, and socially astute – to mention a few of the skills and attitudes that these students are cultivating whilst reading the MBA programme.
“The MBA programme certainly embraces the principles of vision, education, dialogue and action in order to prepare graduates to better address the complexities inherent in the business world in which we are currently living,” she says.
About the MBA
The MBA at the Graduate School of Business and Leadership on the UKZN’s Westville Campus is a two-year part time programme with ten modules and a dissertation. Students are expected to complete eight modules in the first year and a core (advance strategy) module and one elective in the second year. They embark upon their dissertation in the first semester of the second year.
While there have been significant changes since the advent of COVID-19 measures, contact time per module is usually 40 hours. There are 10 modules of 16 credits points each and a dissertation of 64 credit points. The entire programme is 224 credit points.
Prospective students are required to write an entry test. They are usually employed, are required to have at least three years’ work experience, hold an honours degree or postgraduate diploma at NQF level 8 and are over 25 years of age.
Full Name of Organisation: University of KwaZulu-Natal’s (UKZN) Graduate School of Business and Leadership (GSB&L)
Nature of Business: Tertiary institution
Services / Products: Postgraduate degrees across a range of specialisation and short courses for professional, management and entrepreneurial development.
Date Established: 1974
Deputy Vice-Chancellor and Head (Acting), College of Law and Management Studies, UKZN: Professor Brian McArthur
Interim Dean and Head, Graduate School of Business and Leadership: Professor Ana Martins
Interim Academic Leader of Teaching and Learning: Dr Trevor Mtetwa
Interim Academic Leader of Research and Higher Degrees: Dr Pfano Mashau
School Operations Manager: Mr Dhashendra Naicker
Physical Address: University Road, Westville Campus, University of KwaZulu-Natal
Postal Address: Private Bag X54001, Durban, 4000
Tel: +27 (0)31 260 7564