Students return from life changing exchange programme in Shanghai


For Alick Granger, a Masters of Business Leadership (MBL) student at the Unisa Graduate School of Business Leadership (SBL), a two-week international student exchange programme in Shanghai has proved to be a life-changing multicultural experience that has inspired further academic and research links. Granger was one of only 40 students from all over the world, four in total from Unisa, selected for the Shanghai Open University International exchange programme.  The students returned on 29 August after a 2 week stay in Shanghai China.

 “The exchange programme was very well organised and has left a positive lasting impression on me of the Chinese culture and way of life. I had perceptions of China and its people that were highly informed by limited contact and general media reports. This experience has not only provided me an appreciation and elementary understanding of the Chinese language, culture and way of life, but it has also given me exposure to other cultures, learning styles and the way of life of my peers from across the world,” says Granger.

As well as studying for his MBL, Granger is a Business Development Manager focused on BBBEE and Transformation at Bearing Man Group (BMG) in Johannesburg.  When weighing up the value of his contributions in academic and professional discussions across business, economics, strategy, international business and the core exposure models of the MBL programme, Granger is convinced that the MBL qualification has empowered him and to make an impact and contribution towards research and business locally and internationally.

According to Granger, peers who participated in the exchange programme from other Universities around the world expressed keen interest in assisting in facilitating communication between their institutions and UNISA aimed at facilitating academic and cultural exchanges.  “The exposure of UNISA students to universities across the BRICS countries is an immediate imperative due to the political and economic synergies that have been developed.  I believe that South Africa as a member of this grouping has a significant academic contribution to make and we need to strengthen these ties through the UNISA platform.”

“As my major is in business leadership I was fascinated to see in action how the theory on the benefits of cultural diversity in the workplace is truly a source of competitive advantage in application,” says Granger. “I think we have a lot to learn from the Chinese considering their emerging global power and resilient growth in a very challenging global economic environment.”

The South African group was popular and when called to present elements of African culture to the group, Mandela was the focus. “We invited our colleague from Kenya to join us in celebrating the cultural values espoused by Nelson Mandela by each citing quotations from Mandela’s speeches as a way of paying respect to his passing on this year. We each cited Mandela quotes and reflected on how these quotes applied to us as Africans and the impact it has had on our culture. This was well received and comments from our peers were that that these were cultural values that needed to be applied by humanity as a whole,” says Granger.

Unisa’s Research and Innovation portfolio is very active in platforms such as this and Prof Mamokgethi Phakeng, Vice Principal of Research and Innovation at Unisa, fully supported this initiative from day one.  “Student exchanges were not available before and we now have two - Mumbai and Shanghai.  Our idea is to increase the number of these and, ultimately, to have a situation where we have them by discipline. We are targeting the BRICS countries where we get our students to gain exposure and compete equally.” 


Photo courtesy of