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29 May 2019 | Story Valentino Ndaba | Photo Pexels
Prof Melanie Walker
Fostering human capabilities in universities may potentially transform education, says Prof Melanie Walker.

Education is at the centre of human life, and has the potential to be a crucial support for democratic life. Prof Melanie Walker’s recent research paper strikes a balance in dealing with people, education and the implications for democracy through the lens of human capabilities theory and practice and her own research.

People and papers

In her capacity as the SARChI Chair in the Higher Education and Human Development Research Programme at the University of the Free State (UFS), Prof Walker recently published a paper titled: Defending the Need for a Foundational Epistemic Capability in Education. It appeared in the special issue of the Journal of Human Development and Capabilities in honour of renowned Nobel Laureate Amartya Sen’s 85th birthday.

Nurturing epistemic justice

Within the context of existing literature such as that of Sen’s concern with the value of education on the one hand, and public reasoning on the other, Prof Walker argues for a foundational epistemic capability to shape the formal education landscape – as well as quality in education – by fostering inclusive public reasoning (including critical thinking) in all students. It would contribute to what Sen calls the ‘protective power of democracy’ and shared democratic rights, which, he argues, are strongly missed when most needed.

“Sen’s approach asks us to build democratic practices in our university and in our society in ways which create capabilities for everyone. If our students learn public reasoning in all sorts of spaces in university, including the pedagogical, they may carry this into and back to society,” she said.

Educating for equality

Empowering society and fighting for justice are some of the crucial contributions made possible through fostering the epistemic capability of all students. “The capability requires that each student is recognised as both a knower and teller, a receiver and a contributor in critical meaning and knowledge, and an epistemic agent in processes of learning and critical thinking,” states Prof Walker.

In a young democracy like South Africa’s, inclusive public reasoning becomes all the more essential in order to achieve equality, uphold rights and sustain democracy as enshrined in the constitution, thereby improving people’s lives. 

News Archive

MBA Programme - Question And Answer Sheet - 27 May 2004
2004-05-27

1. WHAT MUST THE UNIVERSITY OF THE FREE STATE (UFS) DO TO GET FULL ACCREDITATION FOR THE MBA PROGRAMMES?

According to the Council on Higher Education’s (CHE) evaluation, the three MBA programmes of the UFS clearly and significantly contribute to students’ knowledge and skills, are relevant for the workplace, are appropriately resourced and have an appropriate internal and external programme environment. These programmes are the MBA General, the MBA in Health Care Management and the MBA in Entrepreneurship.

What the Council on Higher Education did find, was a few technical and administrative issues that need to be addressed.

This is why the three MBA programmes of the UFS received conditional accreditation – which in itself is a major achievement for the UFS’s School of Management, which was only four years old at the time of the evaluation.

The following breakdown gives one a sense of the mostly administrative nature of the conditions that have to be met before full accreditation is granted by the CHE:

a. A formal forum of stakeholders: The UFS is required to establish a more structured, inclusive process of review of its MBA programmes. This is an administrative formality already in process.

b. A work allocation model: According to the CHE this is required to regulate the workload of the teaching staff, particularly as student numbers grow, rather than via standard management processes as currently done.

c. Contractual agreements with part-time staff: The UFS is required to enter into formal agreements with part-time and contractual staff as all agreements are currently done on an informal and claim-basis. This is an administrative formality already in process.

d. A formal curriculum committee: According to the CHE, the School of Management had realised the need for a structure – other than the current Faculty Board - where all MBA lecturers can deliberate on the MBA programmes, and serve as a channel for faculty input, consultation and decision-making.

e. A system of external moderators: This need was already identified by the UFS and the system is to be implemented as early as July 2004.

f. A compulsory research component: The UFS is required to introduce a research component which will include the development of research skills for the business environment. The UFS management identified this need and has approved such a component - it is to take effect from January 2005. This is an insufficient element lacking in virtually all MBA programmes in South Africa.

g. Support programmes for learners having problems with numeracy: The UFS identified this as a need for academic support among some learners and has already developed such a programme which will be implemented from January 2005.

The majority of these conditions have been satisfied already and few remaining steps will take effect soon. It is for this reason that the UFS is confident that its three MBA programmes will soon receive full accreditation.

2. WHAT ACCREDITATION DOES THE UFS HAVE FOR ITS MBA PROGRAMME?

The UFS’s School of Management received conditional accreditation for its three MBA programmes.

Two levels of accreditation are awarded to tertiary institutions for their MBA programmes, namely full accreditation and conditional accreditation. When a programme does not comply with the minimum requirements regarding a small number of criteria, conditional accreditation is given. This can be rectified during the short or medium term.

3. IS THERE ANYTHING WRONG WITH THE ACADEMIC CORE OF THE UFS’s MBA PROGRAMMES?

No. The UFS is proud of its three MBA programmes’ reputation in the market and the positive feedback it receives from graduandi and their employers.

The MBA programmes of the UFS meet most of the minimum requirements of the evaluation process.

In particular, the key element of ‘teaching and learning’, which relates to the curriculum and content of the MBA programmes, is beyond question. In other words, the core of what is being taught in our MBA programmes is sound.

4. IS THE UFS’s MBA A WORTHWHILE QUALIFICATION?

Yes. Earlier this year, the School of Management – young as it is - was rated by employers as the best smaller business school in South Africa. This was based on a survey conducted by the Professional Management Review and reported in the Sunday Times Business Times, of 25 January 2004.

The UFS is committed to maintaining these high standards of quality, not only through compliance with the requirements of the CHE, but also through implementing its own quality assurance measures.

Another way in which we benchmark the quality of our MBA programmes is through the partnerships we have formed with institutions such as the DePaul University in Chicago and Kansas State University, both in the US, as well as the Robert Schuman University in France.

For this reason the UFS appreciates and supports the work of the CHE and welcomes its specific findings regarding the three MBA programmes.

It is understandable that the MBA review has caused some nervousness – not least among current MBA students throughout the country.

However, one principle that the UFS management is committed to is this: preparing all our students for a world of challenge and change. Without any doubt the MBA programme of the UFS is a solid preparation.

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