Dr Cobus Oosthuizen, Dean of the Milpark Business School

Dr Cobus Oosthuizen - Milpark.jpg

What are the challenges of being a private institution?

The challenges include inhibiting legislation that excludes private higher education institutions (PHEIs) from National Research Foundation (NRF) funding, NRF rating, professorships, and the use of the name ‘university.’ To a lesser extent, another challenge is recognition by public universities. We have however come a long way with the business school, where we (Milpark specifically) are recognised as equals by peer business schools locally, and even internationally. I serve as vice president on SABSA’s exco, for example, which further demonstrates this recognition.

What does Milpark have to offer that separates you or makes you unique compared to other business schools?

A defining feature is our flexible delivery modes, i.e. offering both contact learning and distance learning. In terms of our contact learning there is the further choice between evening classes or weekend classes. In terms of our distance learning, our online environment is driven by an advanced technology architecture and is perceived to be pioneering in the South African context.

How does Milpark contribute to the business sector and how does the business school benefit in return from any contributions made?

We contribute to the business sector through our (1) responsive and flexible learning solutions; (2) relevant and quality tuition; (3) dynamic partnerships with industry and (4) service and support excellence, all of which translates into our graduates being (1) exemplary performers that set an example and command respect; (2) responsible leaders that project concern for humanity and the earth in the context of accountable business practice; and (3) have strong local business roots and a global vision, with deep foundations in the core competencies of managing successful businesses.        

What is your institution doing in terms of playing a role in managing change within socio-economic turmoil?

We believe that our success as a business school is not measured by the number of students that graduate from our institution, but rather by the positive impact our graduates make as responsible leaders and change agents in their organisations, communities and the country at large. We therefore emphasise and accentuate the "responsible leadership" schema in our thinking, curricula and teaching methodologies. In addition, as a signatory to the Principles of Responsible Management Education (PRME) Milpark has publically declared its commitment to develop the capabilities of students to be future generators of sustainable value for business and society at large and to work for an inclusive and sustainable global economy, and to incorporate into its academic activities and curricula the values of global social responsibility as portrayed in international initiatives such as the United Nations Global Compact.

Has Milpark suffered any damage or delays as a result of the recent student uprisings?

No, Milpark has not suffered any damage or delays as a result of the recent student uprisings.

How have you been able to provide support to students at risk?

As required by regulation, Milpark monitors academic performance through system-driven at-risk identification mechanisms. Remedial interventions for students identified as at-risk may include things such as additional or alternative courses, coaching, mentoring, academic counselling or a change of programme.

With the recent drama concerning fees in higher education, what measures has Milpark put in place to ensure that their education is affordable?

Through the lens of “affordability,” Milpark’s pricing strategy is subject to our commitment to equipping students to lead and manage in an age of volatility, uncertainty, complexity and ambiguity, as well as for career advancement through relevant and future-fit business education solutions, tailored to meet the demands of modern life. Our fees determination is thus cognisant of the functional benefits that students demand (flexible learning modes, accessible resources and educators, accredited qualifications, professional educators and staff, and effective systems and processes), as well as the emotional benefits they seek (recognition, respect, achievement, independent, confident, responsible, and authentic). Within the aforementioned framework, we therefore ensure a reasonable fee structure.

What is the most poignant memory you have in terms of students from poorer backgrounds who have achieved against the odds?

What I can attest to is the numerous MBAs from previously disadvantaged backgrounds whom I know got promoted during their MBA programme, or towards the end of their MBA programme, or after graduation. In addition, examples of career changes, i.e. getting a better job with a higher salary also abound.

What do you see as the major challenges for education in SA, and what are the strengths we can offer local and international students?

I would rather refer to main priorities rather than challenge. From a business school perspective, SABSA (in whose activities Milpark plays an active role) has identified four main themes, i.e.:

  1. Transformation: “How do we ensure our relevance and effectiveness of meeting contemporary leadership and management education given our future imperatives, current context and legacy issues. It is expected that we will engage primarily with curriculum and faculty development and transformation within the bigger ideal of what a business school in South Africa should be.”
  2. Access: “How do we ensure that our beneficiaries are able to access what we offer. This would cover entrance requirements, funding (whether this be fees, scholarships, bursaries, taking advantage of government sources, etc), and possible modes of delivery.”
  3. Collaboration: “How do we in the spirit of collegiality, collaborate across various dimensions where it is beneficial for our stakeholders to do so. This could be around training and development of faculty, conferences, peer reviews, engaging with other associations, professions both locally, regionally and internationally. Included in this is to see how SABSA can better drive collaboration.”
  4. Contribution: “How can South African Business Schools ensure they make a significant contribution to our country, continent and the world? Along what themes should we be doing this? Teaching, Research, Community engagement….? How do we measure this contribution? Are there particular outcomes that we should be striving for?”

The business school landscape in South Africa, is, in my view, vibrant and relevant, meeting the demands of industry. Feedback from alumni and industry (private and public) stakeholders is overwhelmingly positive in terms of the relevance of business schools’ postgraduate offerings and the value ithey add to the individuals and the organisations they serve. As far as I’m concerned, most South African business schools punch above their weight and I consider Milpark to be one of those. I am more than convinced that South African business schools are on par with the best in the world and we are deeply attuned with what goes on economically, socially, politically, technologically and the like, not only locally, but internationally. As such, South Africa’s business schools can stand their ground with their peers globally. In fact, next to the US, South Africa is one of the earliest providers of the sought-after MBA with as many as five providers already in the 1960s.

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