‘A recipe for success’ – Dean Elsabé Loots discusses 100 years of UP Economic & Management Sciences achievements

Posted on June 02, 2020

The year 2020 marks the centenary of the Faculty of Economic and Management Sciences at the University of Pretoria (EMS@UP). One of the oldest faculties at UP, EMS has ingrained itself as an integral part of the University’s community.

Faculty Dean Professor Elsabé Loots leads the team responsible for guiding EMS@UP into a future that she sees as continuing the culture of excellence that has become synonymous with the Faculty.

“We have extremely dedicated and innovative staff and high-quality students, and I think the combination is a recipe for success,” Prof Loots said. “The dedication of staff, high-quality engagement between students and staff, and the availability of lecturers to engage with students on a continuous basis encourages students to become serious about their studies and lead to successful graduates.”

Prof Loots said the Faculty’s illustrious history has helped it remain on the cutting edge in how teaching and learning takes place. As students returned to their academic activities in a changed world, she is confident her Faculty is ready to make maximum use of online learning to ensure no student is left behind. 

Looking back from when the Faculty started in 1920, with 20 students, to today, with approximately 7 800 students, EMS@UP has certainly found its footing in the South African and global economic landscape.

The Faculty has also produced notable alumni, with a number of prominent CEOs of industry and presidents of the South African Reserve Bank having studied and, in some cases, lectured at EMS@UP. Over the past 10 years, the Faculty’s focus became more research-intensive, while it maintained its reputation for excellent teaching and learning. This shift has also led to all the Faculty’s subject fields being recognised in a number of prominent world ranking tables. Some of the areas that the Faculty has been praised for include the impact of the research it produces, and the positive perceptions employers have of EMS@UP graduates.

Prof Loots is also proud of the consistently excellent performance of the Faculty’s students in the South African Institute of Chartered Accountants’ (SAICA) Initial Test of Competence (ITC) for over 10 years. The ITC, a standard-setting technical examination, is the first of the two qualifying exams written and passed by all prospective chartered accountants (CAs). In 2020, UP students claimed seven of the top ten spots in the SAICA ITC results. UP candidates also achieved a 92% pass rate, compared to a 59% pass rate nationally. This ensured that UP came out tops among the 3 657 students who sat for the exam from across the 16 South African universities accredited by SAICA.

Prof Loots explained that the success of the CA Programme at the Faculty over the past 11 years is mainly due to the effort of its dedicated staff and high-quality students. She added that most of the teaching and learning awards that the Faculty has won have come from the financial sciences departments.

“In Taxation, we noticed a trend that the moment our students graduate they get snapped up by industry. The trend has also been that these students will then go on to participate in the Ernst & Young Young Professionals Programme,” Prof Loots said. “A few years ago one of our students went on to be crowned the international winner of the competition, and this was just a year after they’d completed their studies. In Economics, we had this year one of our undergraduate students winning the Nedbank & Old Mutual Budget Speech competition.”

EMS@UP also hosts the SARCHi Chair in Tax Policy and Governance, South African Reserve Bank Chair in Monetary Economics, the African Tax Institute and the Albert Luthuli Centre for Responsible Leadership, which Prof Loots described as a reflection of the acknowledgement of the expertise available in the Faculty. She said the Faculty’s fastest-growing programme is its Supply Chain Management Programme, and added “we battle to get students to go into full-time postgraduate studies after they complete their undergraduate programme in Supply Chain Management because they get snapped up by industry too quickly!” The continuous industry engagements of the students in Marketing Management also makes them sought-after in the market.

The Faculty runs entrepreneurship and other work-readiness programmes through the UP Work Readiness and Entrepreneurship (WREn) initiative, aiming to create well-rounded students who can contribute meaningfully in their industries, and also help craft solutions to the unemployment crisis South Africa faces. The Faculty, through its Centre for Entrepreneurship, has also launched the National SMME Support Portal to assist small businesses that have been adversely affected by the COVID-19 pandemic. 

Looking ahead, Prof Loots said her vision is to raise the Faculty’s international profile. EMS@UP aims to become one of about 780 schools across the world that offer programmes accredited by the Association for the Advancement of Collegiate Schools of Business (AACSB).

“The Gordon Institute of Business Science (GIBS) is one such institution, and we want to be the second unit of UP to have this accreditation. We will be the first non-MBA Faculty in South Africa to be accredited should our application be successful. We also want to continue with our innovation in teaching and learning, and we are continuing to narrow the focus of our research focus areas and expand the depth and impact of our research.”

Click here to find out more about the Faculty of Economic and Management Sciences at the University of Pretoria.

- Author Masego Panyane

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