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College of Economic and Management Sciences

Unisa economics student 3rd in Nedbank & Old Mutual 2011 Budget Speech Competition

Deon Fourie receiving his Second Runner-up (3rd place) certificate
from the Minister of Finance - From left to right Mr Mike Brown,
CEO Nedbank Group, Deon Fourie, Mr Pravin Gordhan and
Mr Ralph Mupita, CEO Old Mutual Emerging Markets

An honours student in the Department of Economics, Mr Deon Fourie, was recently the second runner-up in the prestigious Nedbank and Old Mutual Budget Speech Competition (BSC) – proving that part-time students doesn’t have to take a back seat to their full-time counterparts.

There was great joy when Mr Fourie, the only part-time student in both categories, was announced as second runner-up in the postgraduate competition and received his framed award certificate from Mr Gordhan.  Any position in the top 3 of this competition is a major feat.

The competition is held in undergraduate and postgraduate categories.  Traditionally, Unisa students compete in the postgraduate competition, for which the first prize is R150 000 in cash.  This prize money may be used for educational purposes only, to finance postgraduate study at a university, to redeem a student loan, or to purchase books and other study materials.  The candidates placed second and third in the competition receive R60 000 and R25 000 respectively.

The process starts in the middle of the previous year. After submission of essays on the 2011 topic by end June, the finalists were announced later in 2011 and the Unisa Department of Economics was delighted when Mr Fourie, was amongst those in the postgraduate category.  The comprehensive adjudication panel interviews were conducted in Cape Town on Tuesday 21 February 2012.  The students and their universities’ convenors (lecturers liaising between the organisers and students) attended the Minister of Finance’s Budget speech in Parliament on Wednesday 22 February, with the awards banquet – where the Minister, Mr Pravin Gordhan, was the guest of honour - following in the evening.

The Nedbank and Old Mutual Budget Speech Competition (BSC) was launched in 1972 and, according to the sponsors, “aims to seek out, stimulate and reward the country’s brightest young minds and biggest thinkers. In order for South Africa to continue along the path of sound economic growth, we need to make sure that we invest in developing a new generation of economic leaders, and this is where the competition plays a role.”  It is probably the most prestigious competition an Economics student in South Africa can participate in.

Until 2010, Unisa students have won the competition on three occasions (Andrew Donaldson 1982, Graham Bod 1983 and Greta Steyn 1990) and obtained one third prize as well (Ingrid Woolard).

At its heart, the BSC is an academic essay-writing competition.  Participants are required to write an essay on a set topic.  Panels of experts then select ten finalists in each category based on the merit and quality of their essays.  The competition organisers transport the finalists to Cape Town, where they appear before a panel of adjudicators and attend various activities as guests of the sponsors.  The three prize winners in each category are announced at a sumptuous banquet after the Budget Speech.


Happiness spanning 40 years - 1972 BSC winner and
Unisa’s convenor Deon Burger and Deon Fourie shortly
after receiving his 2011/12 Second Runner-up (3rd place) award

During the speeches mention was also made of the presence of the first winner in 1972, none other than our Unisa BSC convenor, Mr Deon Burger, and his prize money at the time – R50 (obviously worth much more in current Rand value)!

The Unisa students previously successful in the competition had all completed their undergraduate studies full-time at other universities and only their postgraduate studies at Unisa.  By contrast, Deon Fourie is a 100% Unisa ‘product’, having commenced his studies in 2007 and obtaining his B Com degree from us in 2010, in Economics averaging 80% in all his undergraduate and 88% in his third-level modules.  Throughout this time, he was also in employment, part-time for the first few years and full-time for the past year and a half to date.

The Economics lecturers who know him well look forward to much more interaction with this pleasant, enquiring and very hard-working student.  He is currently employed at the National Treasury and will again register with Unisa for the second year of his Honours in Economics.  As he is now only 23 years old, the Department of Economics hopes to still have him as a postgraduate student at all levels for many years to come!