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Unisa alum is Oxford-bound

While working as a civil engineer, Sarel van Baalen completed a BCom (Law) degree through Unisa with a 75% course average. ‘Following this achievement I look forward to starting a Master of Business Administration (MBA) at the University of Oxford in September. Following a rigorous application process in 2018, I was admitted and awarded a scholarship. However, it does not cover all costs and I have therefore designed and developed my own crowdfunding campaign.’


On the Unisa experience

Van Baalen says that he had a great experience studying at Unisa. ‘As I started my career as a civil engineer, I could choose from wide range of industry relevant degree programmes. The BCom Law degree particularly attracted me as it has general business modules, supplemented with relevant law modules. Studying this degree part-time, while building my career as a civil engineer, helped me develop a good general business acumen. I really enjoyed being able to take modules and be able to immediately apply my new knowledge and skills at work. The flexibility of studying at Unisa is unique - it allows you to study at home, at work or while travelling. I believe Unisa offers a great opportunity for young professionals to further their education.’

Entrepreneurial skillset will unlock African opportunities

After five years of working as an engineer in the infrastructure sector, Van Baalen realised that he can have a far larger impact in this field by building and leading enterprises. ‘The MBA at Oxford presents many unique opportunities and I felt that these are well-aligned with my long-term career vision to build enterprises and help improve access to infrastructure in Africa,’ he says. ‘Oxford is known for attracting some of the world’s best faculty and students and I have a lot of valuable knowledge, insights and perspectives to gain from them.’

Van Baalen says that he looks forward to developing a strong entrepreneurial skillset as well as the confidence to convert that into building and leading infrastructure enterprises across Africa. ‘At Oxford, I will build a global business network with the current student body and the alumni and I am confident that this network will further assist me in unlocking opportunities across Africa,’ he says.

The road ahead

Commenting on the future, Van Baalen says that it is well known that Africa faces a major infrastructure gap. ‘At the same time, it is evident that since Africa’s domestic capital is exhausted and that we need foreign investors to help unlock infrastructure opportunities,’ he says. ‘However, given the often challenging business environment, policy and political uncertainty and corruption in Africa, attracting and deploying foreign investment can be a challenge. Post-MBA, I want to tackle that challenge by joining one of the leading players in that field such as the African Development Bank, CDC Group or International Finance Corporation.’

* By Philip van der Merwe, Editor: Department of Institutional Advancement

Publish date: 2019/06/19