NWU’s Prof Linda du Plessis first in SA to obtain international DBA degree
With Women’s Month around the corner, Prof Linda du Plessis, deputy vice-chancellor of the North-West University (NWU) responsible for planning and Vanderbijlpark Campus operations, is blazing a trail of excellence in higher education management.
Prof Du Plessis recently became the first South African to successfully complete the international Doctor of Business Administration (DBA) degree.
Her journey towards the qualification, which is her second doctoral degree, began in January of 2017 when she enrolled for the programme at the University of Bath in the United Kingdom.
Not only is she South Africa’s first graduate, but she also received special mention for completing the degree in four years after the programme owners had indicated that they expected graduates only to complete the degree after five years.
According to Prof Du Plessis, she had to complete several modules and a research thesis. The modules included Globalisation and Higher Education Strategy, Higher Education Policy and Management, Higher Education and Organisational Change, and Methods and Methodology for Higher Education Research.
Her research thesis was titled: “A Phenomenological Study of Sense-making and Legitimacy During Institutional Radical Change”. She completed her thesis under the supervision of Dr Hong TM Bui, an associate professor in Higher Education Management.
Time management and collaboration
Asked how she managed her studies while working full-time and taking care of her family, Prof Du Plessis says her biggest challenge was time management, and that she has learnt that strict time management is non-negotiable.
“If you don’t keep to your timelines, you can easily lose track and that puts you back, not only time-wise, but also in terms of knowledge acquisition,” explains Prof Du Plessis. She also says after a challenging day, she found it comforting to busy herself with something other than her mainstream work.
She further says that what counted in her favour was the fact that she found the required reading material to be very relevant and she could apply her newfound knowledge to her current role as manager and strategic planner.
As someone with a background in mathematics and statistics, she also found the social sciences-based programme and the analysis of qualitative data that was required to be very interesting.
Another important part of her study journey was that of international collaboration. She had to attend four compulsory study weeks, and during this time she forged networks with colleagues from around the world. To this day, this network of collaborators frequently shares information with one another.
What is next?
“Definitely not another PhD!” laughs Prof Du Plessis, who handed in her thesis at the end of February, just before the coronavirus lockdown period in South Africa started.
She believes the advent of the coronavirus has taught people to think differently about the world of work, and she is of the opinion that South Africans should use this time to capitalise on opportunities this new normal has introduced.
“We find ourselves in an interesting time, and in terms of higher education, I am excited about the prospects and the ways in which we can emerge stronger and more resilient after the pandemic.”
* The programme represents a dynamic collaboration between the Department of Higher Education and Training (DHET), Nelson Mandela University (NMU) and the University of Bath in the United Kingdom.