New funding collaboration to make financial services graduates more competitive

A new financial risk management degree at the University of Cape Town developed to address the skills gap in the financial services sector, received a major boost in the form of bursary funding from BANKSETA.

A recently signed Memorandum of Agreement between the African Institute of Financial Markets and Risk Management’s (AIFMRM) at UCT and BANKSETA, will see the statutory body provide over R2.5 million toward the tuition for students enrolled in the new Master of Commerce degree in Risk Management of Financial Markets.

“The funding of this degree resonates with several key elements of our approach to public institution engagement, as well as the sector’s requirements for specialised skills. The Agreement is an outcome of our strategy to support local public higher education institutions in response to the needs of registered employers operating in our sector,” said Paulette Bourne, Work Integrated Learning and Bursaries Manager at BANKSETA.

Launched this year, the new Master of Commerce programme aims to plug a number of skills gaps in the financial services sector by producing graduates who are mature of mind and attitude, and able to make a contribution to their new company from the moment they arrive.

“Commerce faculty graduates are often unprepared for the workplace and generally require a year or more of post-education immersion to begin contributing in a meaningful way. This is expensive and impractical for a sector that is crying out for skilled professionals,” said AIFMRM director, David Taylor.

“The technical sophistication of modern financial services roles, the speed at which the environment can change, and the breadth of knowledge and abilities it requires to be truly useful is beyond an undergraduate education. Targeted postgraduate education is more flexible and adaptable, coursework is specialised and intensive, and smaller classes allow students to be individually moulded,” Taylor said.

AIFMRM spent over a year developing an academic intervention that matches the needs of the industry as closely as possible.

“Government has aligned itself with our thinking and agreed to the implementation of what are termed ‘Professional Master’s degrees.’ These degrees have different educational outcomes to traditional Master’s programmes and allow for much more flexibility in research and assessment. In essence, Professional Master’s degrees are specialised apprenticeships. This can produce ‘day-one ready’ graduates who do not need a year or more of immersion to contribute in a meaningful way,” Taylor said.

“This degree was designed as an occupational qualification, targeting the risk manager profile, and contains a component of workplace skills learning. We believe it is vital for students to be exposed to the practical application of their qualification in a workplace setting,” Bourne said.

An added benefit, according to Bourne, is that the subject matter experts within the broader financial services sector have informed the design of the curriculum, emphasising the importance of consulting with the sector.

Taylor has urged other academic institutions to adopt the same line of action. “In order to be truly useful, universities should view specialised education as having three properties: the acquisition of technical skills and a comprehensive understanding of the environment into which graduates will be placed; an apprenticeship ethos throughout the degree; and a determined focus on ‘job readiness’. Professional degrees should be coordinated by both the industry and the university as a matter of course,” Taylor said.

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