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At the beginning of May, Henley Business School recorded another very strong showing in the critically acclaimed Financial Times of London’s global rankings of executive education. The business school, with its campuses in the UK, Denmark, Finland, Malta, Malaysia and South Africa, ranked 20th out of the top 75 business schools globally and number one in Africa. The rankings show that we are the #1 ranked accredited business school in all of Africa for combined open and customised programmes.

The ranking for customised education component is three places better than last year, in the face of much-increased competition. And what is especially pleasing is that the majority of the data that used to create Henley’s global ranking was drawn from its South African campus.

It is even more remarkable when you consider that 12 years ago, Henley Africa did not have an executive education programme whatsoever. Today, executive education accounts for more than two thirds of our turnover, which in itself has grown by more than 1500% since we started the process to create a full-service Henley Business School in Africa, situated at our campus in Johannesburg, and now with a campus in Cape Town too. 

This year’s achievement has been a fantastic collective effort by Henley – and driven by our team in executive education led by Linda Buckley and managed by Anabela Pinto, John-Martin Cranko and Mbali Mazibuko.  It is of course supported by all the operations and support services in the school. It is a powerful testimony to the combined customised and open programmes Henley runs, but for me, the success is far more than just the business perspective – it’s about the human impact these courses have.

We live in a country that is one of the most unequal in the world. Much of that is down to the legacy of apartheid. The only way to properly address that and to radically transform the economy in the process is through education. Sadly, access to quality education – and in particular higher education – has been a key reason why the inequality has endured and in fact worsened over the last few decades. 

It doesn’t help that South Africa is caught in a vice grip that is not entirely of its own making, a country battling corruption and unemployment trying to compete in a world that is under immense disruption from the fourth industrial revolution; digitisation increasingly driven by artificial intelligence.

Far too many South Africans are never able to access the privilege of higher education due to the twin barriers of cost and geography. Executive education programmes allow us to overcome this by getting those who have the ability to study further, but were denied this by circumstances beyond their control, into class, part-time. Henley Africa’s unique ladder of learning is a vital tool in this regard allowing students, who are working, to continue earning as they learn from higher certificates (NQF 5) all the way up to a master’s degree (NQF 9).

That’s one aspect, allowing students who have the potential to study at that level to finally be able to unlock it; but the other aspect is just as important. In a world that is defined by its turbulence and uncertainty, in workplaces under continuous disruption and economic pressures, the ability to learn and keep on learning is vital to have a successful career. In fact, we are now in an era of learning, unlearning and relearning as jobs either become obsolete or evolve at a rate that was unimaginable a decade before.

Executive education – and particularly customised executive education – that is both geared to the context and needs of the company that requires it, is a fantastic tool to master these challenges. Especially when the designs and teaching methods are progressive and combine action learning with pedagogy that is academically proven and accredited. 

Henley Africa is not the only business school to offer executive education programmes, many other very fine business schools are doing so too, especially in South Africa, and they are being joined by others each year. What makes the FT awards so particularly poignant though for me, is that they are based largely on the responses from the corporate clients who commission these courses and the students who take part in them – or who enrol for the open programmes.

I fundamentally believe in business education and the profound power of business to transform people’s lives; our mission statement is that we build the leaders who build the businesses that build Africa. It is very heartening that so many businesses entrust staff to us – staff who they have identified as having leadership potential and who are critical to their companies’ success. It is incredibly moving when all of them rate us as the best on the continent and the 20th best in the world. 

It is a wonderful affirmation of the work our faculty has been doing, of the global impact of Henley. and is a convincing and important yardstick. It is also very humbling. As always though, we are because of others; the team at Henley, the companies that support us, the students who believe in us. The only way we can reward them is to do even more, even better, in the coming year. DM

Author: Professor Jon Foster-Pedley, Dean and Director of Henley Business School South Africa.


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