The University of Pretoria’s Accounting Sciences programme aims to launch ethical influencers who re-imagine and co-create the future, and a new BCom Accounting Sciences degree was rolled out in 2023 to ensure just that. The new programme will continue to have a strong technical core, but will now also purposefully develop professional skills and competencies. Students will, in future, only be able to FLY@UP if they manage to develop the right combination of both technical competence and professional skills.
One of the professional skills to be developed is business acumen, and a new module, Business Acumen, was created. Students will have this module at each year level of their studies. Elize Fouché, senior lecturer in Financial Management, says that this module could facilitate a process to develop the understanding of the business environment of our students, as well as to intentionally develop critical thinking skills and assist with contextualising the technical content of all modules within the business world.
The module also aims to connect the technical content of the different modules with each other by following an integrated business cycle approach. This in essence means that, for a specific quarter, all knowledge will relate to the same business cycle. This is the case not only for the Business Acumen module, but also for all the other core modules in the programme. During the third quarter of 2023, the first-year Accounting Sciences students focus on the inventory and manufacturing business cycle. This is then positioned within the retail and manufacturing industry.
To assist with the contextualisation of the economic events relevant to the manufacturing process, UP has partnered with a manufacturing entity, Universal Paper and Plastics (UPP). UPP is a Tshwane-based producer of paper products and the third-biggest producer of toilet paper in the country. Their brands include well-known house brands of several large retailers, as well as Dinu serviettes, kitchen towels and toilet tissue. Paper is produced from wood pulp, whereafter it is further processed in various tissue products. The company has been owned by the Sher family since the 1950s and, despite the company employing in excess of 250 people, you get the feeling that everyone there is part of a very devoted family.
The first step in the partnership was to empower the staff responsible for the Accounting Sciences programme to understand the business. All staff responsible for the first- and second-year programme visited the manufacturing plant of UPP in Ga-Rankuwa to experience the manufacturing process firsthand, in real life. Dr Joanne Seligmann, a senior lecturer in Financial Management, says “It is important to contextualise the manufacturing process to cultivate real understanding amongst students and the visit to the UPP manufacturing plant will assist lecturers to contextualise the content for the students”.
The UP staff with the Managing Director of UPP (David Sher in front right).
The management of UPP hosted the Accounting Sciences lecturers at their paper products plant in Ga-Rankuwa on Friday, 26 May 2023. They were kitted out in safety gear before starting the tour of the facility in which paper is manufactured from wood pulp. The executives and management of the company were excellent tour guides, answering all questions and showing off their state-of-the-art facilities, from the making of paper to the packaging of serviettes. Each of the different disciplines within the Accounting Sciences programme could practically experience the topics that are taught to students. Having seen the operations firsthand will not only assist lecturers to enrich their teaching, but also improve the accessibility of learning material and increase student engagement. Anneli Delport, a senior lecturer in Financial Management, said that “standing right next to a giant kitchen towel was beyond anything she could have imagined!”.
The second step in the partnership was for the Managing Director of UPP and alumnus of the Faculty of Economic and Management Sciences, David Sher, to empower all the first-year Accounting Sciences students with a detailed explanation of the manufacturing process of the business, as well as their business strategy, values and risks. He also helped students to understand that the purpose of a business should be to make a difference and elaborated that UPP’s purpose is to “provide a leading range of products that will improve the state of hygiene across Southern Africa”.
A third step in the partnership with UPP is to ensure that the presentation on campus could be supplemented with a virtual reality experience, where all the students could experience a simulated virtual reality tour of the UPP manufacturing plant. This virtual reality experience was prepared by Tanya Hill, a senior lecturer in Taxation, who is passionate about the potential of the virtual reality simulation to assist students with insights and context to improve their understanding of the technical content related to the manufacturing process.
The fourth step in the partnership with UPP is that the context of the business will be used as the lens through which the technical content will be taught. UPP will also provide the setting of the case study in the assessments of the students.
Students experienced the virtual reality simulation of visiting the UPP manufacturing plant with David Sher, Prof Madeleine Stiglingh and Theresa van Oordt
Theresa van Oordt, subject responsible lecturer for the Business Acumen module and the first-year coordinator of the programme, mentions that, although partnership with industry was always important, it now happens in a more structured and intentional way across modules in the new degree. “This is an important step to improve the learning experience of our diverse group of students. Feedback from the students was positive and students appreciated the exposure to the ‘real business world’ to help them to contextualise the knowledge components of their respective modules.”
Prof Madeleine Stiglingh, head of the Accounting Sciences Programme at UP, believes the partnership with UPP is important as it is proven that there is a direct relationship between the understanding of context and improved learning. She says she is “looking forward to the increased performance and enjoyment of the Accounting Sciences students, not only during their journey at UP, but specifically as ethical influencers after they have been launched to re-imagine and co-create the future”.
The partnership of UPP is only one of many partnerships to be formed on the Accounting Sciences journey at UP.