The option of a No-Pay MBA might sound off kilter to many people, but thanks to open source technology it is now a reality. Self-motivated young professionals aiming to pursue a business education, without going into debt, can now access the innovative option through the guidance and tutelage of a South African NGO and one of South Africa’s leading innovators in the field of executive development.
Research shows that MBA carrying professionals earn close to double compared to their peers. However, the option of taking on the MBA seemed only available to those few who can afford it. Co-designer of the renowned UCT’s Graduate School of Business’ pioneering Executive MBA, Tom Ryan believes this is something that can be changed.
“I was inspired by the story of Laurie Pickard. In 2013, Laurie needed a business education to move forward in her career, but after researching the options, she was unconvinced that an investment of her life savings in a traditional MBA would pay off. She thought there might be another way and with the help of free online courses from the world’s top universities, she began her self-taught journey. She documented her noble experience on her blog, No-Pay MBA, so that others could learn from her - and the public quest went viral. When I read about her experience I knew it could be replicated and even improved in South Africa,” says Tom.
Tom began conceptualising what a low-cost MBA would look like and soon approached Cape Town based NPO, Salesian Life Choices to partner with him.
Sofia Neves, Salesian Life Choices MD says; “When we heard the concept of the No-Pay MBA we knew we wanted to be part of it. Our mission as an organization is to tackle inequality and this concept excited us. The fact that only a few elite can afford the exorbitant fees required to pursue a MBA in South Africa feels unethical. Business skills are a scarcity, but they are essential to support SA’s economic growth, - something we are in desperate need of.”
The No-Pay MBA uses blended learning that reverses the traditional learning environment by delivering instructional content - often online - using MOOCs, outside of the classroom. Students watch online lectures, collaborate in online discussions, carry out research at home and then once a week engage in peer-learning in the classroom with the guidance of an expert.
“The program welcomes people from different fields, no background knowledge is required; however preference is given to candidates with some management experience. The course is ideally suited to those desiring to enhance their business acumen, looking to change careers, start a business or just get better in their profession,” says Tom.
As with Pickard’s design, courses offered are based on MOOCs from leading institutions including, but not limited to, Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), the University of California, University of Pennsylvania and Macquarie University in Australia. The 100 week programme demands 10 hours of commitment per week - seven hours of self-study and three hours in meet-ups and will start in April 2018.
“We have begun our recruitment and anyone can join the open days before the closing date on the 28th of March. The programme will be piloted in Cape Town and the weekly meet-ups will happen after hours at our academy in the Southern Suburbs. The aim is to accommodate working professionals as much as we can. The cost for the two year programme is R38,000 and there are several options of payment.
“Five scholarships will be offered. The aim is to push boundaries and align the programme with how modern education should be - dynamic and equitable,” says Sofia.
Laurie Pickard, the originator of the No-Pay MBA concept and author of the book Don’t Pay For Your MBA says, "The curriculum of Life Choices No-Pay MBA is outstanding, comparable to the education you would get at any major business school. Even more valuable, having the support and guidance of a community of other learners and professionals is something that could have added much value to my own No-Pay MBA journey. There is potential for dedicated learners to get outstanding value out of this program, far beyond what they could get with a traditional MBA program. A comprehensive curriculum, a cohort of peers, and an affordable price. What more could you ask for?”