This report on The State of the Provision of the MBA in South Africa brings to a close the review of MBA programmes in South Africa which was carried out by the Higher Education Quality Committee (HEQC), a permanent committee of the Council on Higher Education (CHE). The review started in November 2002 and encompassed a number of steps, culminating in this report.
In choosing the MBA as the first area in which to conduct a national review, the HEQC considered the following issues:
- The HEQC’s need to have clear evaluation criteria to be able to make judgments on new applications to offer MBA programmes, especially from institutions which had not offered MBAs before.
- The HEQC’s policy decision to undertake national reviews, which had to be given effect through the selection of a high profile, high impact programme area, the choice of which would allow for the development of an approach to and a methodology for conducting all future national reviews.
- Concerns expressed by the Minister of Education and other stakeholders about the proliferation of MBAs in the country and the HEQC’s need to have a better sense of their quality, costs and benefits, and relevance to the country’s needs.
- The request in the Department of Education’s (DoE’s) National Plan for Higher Education that the HEQC should prioritise the review of the quality of postgraduate programmes.
The review resulted in accreditation decisions on 37 programmes in a process that took place between November 2002 and March 2004. Setting up a national review for the purpose of re-accreditation required the development of evaluative criteria, the establishment of review panels, the training of panel members, and the conceptualisation and implementation of processes and procedures to undertake the re-accreditation and to come to judgements about the quality of the different programmes. By the end of the process, 7 MBA programmes were granted full accreditation, 15 were given conditional accreditation and a further 15 were de-accredited.
In preparation for the re-accreditation process, the HEQC first gathered base-line information on the ‘shape and size’ of MBA programmes and the business schools that offered them. Institutions then submitted self-evaluation portfolios with supporting evidence in relation to the 13 criteria developed for the review. Panels of experts and peers visited the 27 business schools that offered the MBA programmes and produced evaluation reports on the programmes. Finally, the HEQC MBA Re-Accreditation Committee submitted a series of recommendations on the accreditation status of the 37 MBA programmes to the HEQC Board, which took the final decision.
In the MBA review process, a wealth of information and insights into the MBA was generated by the institutions, the review panels and the HEQC. From the beginning of the exercise, it was clear that, given the HEQC’s focus on quality promotion and capacity development, a national review could not end only with decisions about the accreditation status of different programmes. A national review within a system that has improvement as a fundamental goal had to conclude with an analytical identification of trends in the programmes which could serve as the basis for ongoing improvement of MBA education in the country. The State of the Provision of the MBA in South Africa provides an analytical view of the results of the re-accreditation exercise, but it also takes the issue of the provision of the MBA in South Africa further. The report situates the MBA programmes offered in South Africa in the context of the debates and trends that have punctuated the history of the degree internationally. It interprets information in terms of local socio-economic processes and education policies and their impact on the higher education system, and local and international market trends. It also reflects on the content of the re-accreditation criteria from the perspective of the MBA as a multidisciplinary field of study and identifies strengths to build on and weaknesses to address.
In order to develop a report of this nature, several steps were necessary. A framework for the production of the report on the state of provision of the MBA was developed and circulated for comments among all directors of business schools. A reference group was constituted of business school directors and specialists in higher education which served as a sounding board for the preparation of the final report. Further research on MBA provision was also conducted by the internal research team.
The production of this report has been a collaborative effort of the Accreditation and Coordination Directorate of the HEQC and the Monitoring and Evaluation Directorate of the CHE. The fact that the report is published in the CHE series Monitor of Higher Education reinforces the synergies between the quality assurance and the advisory and monitoring functions of the CHE. This issue of the Monitor of Higher Education focuses on the strengths and weaknesses in MBA provision in South Africa, as identified through a quality assurance lens, and signals areas for reflection and further investigation as well as areas for improvement.
I hope that the material and ideas presented in the report will generate further discussion among the staff of business schools and MBA specialists, and also that current and prospective MBA students and the non-specialist public will find it helps them understand the complexities of business management as a discipline and the challenge that teaching in this field at postgraduate level poses to higher education institutions. The report also points to numerous possibilities for further research in the field of MBA education which hopefully will be taken up in business schools and other research organisations.
Dr Mala Singh
Executive Director, Higher Education Quality Committee