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Should academic excellence be the only goal?

Let’s start at the end ~ Possibly (or maybe even probably).

I had the opportunity to consider this question earlier in the year when I was asked by the University of Cape Town, to help them develop and implement a new strategy proposition for the African Institute of Financial Markets and Risk Management (AIFMRM).

AIFMRM may not be a name you have heard of and as an acronym it fails at being either memorable or pronounceable, but none the less it is a part of UCT that South Africans should feel incredibly proud of. Professor David Taylor and his team quietly produce a small set of incredibly skilled graduates that specialise in the fields of quantitative finance and risk management. Our insurance products, our pensions and our ability to access capital would be significantly more expensive and less secure if we did not have a steady pipeline of these geeks entering the industry each year.

So it was an interesting proposition to engage in a series of conversations with Professor Taylor’s team, his students and their donor institutions about what AIFMRM’s purpose should be and the drawbacks of solely having academic excellence as a sole goal.

In this short video, Professor Taylor gives us his considered opinion about these drawbacks and the benefits he expects to gain from setting a deeper, more altruistic purpose.

I’ll let you decide whether he’s in the “possibly” or “probably” camp, but remember two things: –

i. Mathematicians like proof so getting a direct answer to something as abstract as academic excellence as a goal was always going to be tricky.

ii. He talks about academic excellence, donors, students and lecturers. The arguments stand equally in the corporate world if you replace these with profit, shareholders, customers and staff. (Check out A Horse Called Purpose to see how some household corporate names are benefiting from having a purpose beyond profit!)




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