South Africa's quality watchdog has ordered three overseas universities to drop MBA courses after a two-year probe that unconditionally endorsed only five of home-based courses.
The Council on Higher Education (CHE) conditionally re-accredited a dozen institutions and ordered ten to cease offering MBAs.
The overseas institutions compelled to phase out their MBAs are: De Montfort South Africa (set up by the British university), Bond SA (an offshoot of the private Bond University in Queensland, Australia) and the Business School Netherlands.
Stephen Baskerville, pro vice-chancellor of De Montfort University and chair-designate of DMSA, accused the CHE of erecting "academic and organisational barriers that we cannot go through and will not go round".
De Montfort will not challenge the decision - it has already told the CHE it will not seek re-accreditation under the terms that were being applied.
"The criteria used and the approach taken militated against a global standard, rooted in experience from outside South Africa, and in favour of the locally rooted provider," Professor Baskerville said. He assured students and graduates that the quality of the degree was "undiminished".
The CHE's Higher Education Quality Committee (HEQC) also identified several institutions running "illegal" MBAs, including some lasting just one to five days. These are being closed.
Durban, South Africa's second biggest city, lost all but one of five MBA courses, with two of three of the new University of KwaZulu-Natal campuses and the Durban Institute of Technology campuses refused accreditation.
Other courses to be scrapped are at the Cape and Wi****ersrand universities of technology, the Regent Business School and the International Negotiation Academy.
Non-accredited courses can no longer enrol new students. In some cases, students will be allowed to complete the MBA as an HEQC accredited course, and in others they will be transferred to an accredited course. Former students have a valid qualification.
Courses at the universities of Cape Town, the Wi****ersrand, Stellenbosch, South Africa and Pretoria, which houses both the Graduate School of Management and the Gordon Institute of Business Science, were re-accredited.
Courses at 12 institutions were conditionally accredited: they will achieve full recognition if or when they improve areas of weakness.
The CHE review aimed to evaluate, re-accredit, set standards for and ensure the quality of a proliferation of MBA courses, and to protect the local and global reputation of South African MBAs.
The outcome was welcomed by many institutions as a means of separating internationally respected MBAs from those courses capitalising on soaring demand.
Of the latter, Susen Adendorff, director of Pretoria University's Graduate School of Management MBA programme, said: "They represent exploitation of a relatively unsophisticated local market."
The HEQC chose MBAs as the first field for review because of their direct links with business - in a country keen to be a player in the global economy.
The government's National Plan for Higher Education had also prioritised quality reviews of postgraduate courses.