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Faculty History
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The History behind the Faculty of Commerce

The University of Cape Town's Faculty of Commerce had its beginnings immediately after World War I. Robert Leslie, then Professor of Economics, led the drive to establish a faculty which would provide students with the broad educational background and professional training most appropriate to an executive career in the business world. From its inception, the Faculty of Commerce displayed that spirit of enterprise and unorthodoxy and that strong sense of purpose which were to become its most distinguishing characteristics. Thus the Faculty Board met for the first time on 25th November 1921, four days before it had been formally constituted by the University Council!

A two-year Diploma in Commerce was immediately organised. Then, in 1924, Professor (later Sir Arnold) Plant was appointed to the John Garlick Chair of Commerce, and drew up a curriculum for the Degree of Bachelor of Commerce. Courses were provided both for full-time and for part-time students, who worked during the day and attended lectures in the evening.

The postgraduate research degrees of Master of Commerce and Doctor of Philosophy were also offered. By virtue of its professional bias, and also because many of its students were already following commercial careers, the Faculty achieved the special advantage of being firmly rooted at once in the world of learning and also in the world of business.

In 1952 the University of Cape Town agreed to train articled clerks seeking to qualify as Chartered Accountants, and the Certificate in the Theory of Accountancy was introduced. The offering of the CTA course on a part-time basis led to such an increase in student numbers that the Faculty of Commerce became one of the largest in the University.

The Graduate School of Business, formed in 1965, enrolled South Africa's first full time Master of Business Administration students in 1966. GSB programmes enable the development of managers and leaders at all levels. The School offers four core academic programmes (Associate in Management (AIM); Postgraduate Diploma in Business Administration (PDBA); the MBA; and the Executive MBA) and a range of Executive Education short courses that cater for generalist and professional development needs. In addition, the Executive Education unit provides accredited academic learning or professional development programmes that can be tailored to the needs of specific clients.

All learning is offered either full time or on a modular basis so that if you are unable to relocate to Cape Town or cannot afford to take a year out of work you can still study at the GSB. 

From 1968 onwards, the undergraduate Degree of Bachelor of Business Science has been available in the Faculty. This provides a broad training in business, while the postgraduate Master of Business Science affords an opportunity for advanced study and research.

The present Degree of Bachelor of Commerce has been expanded from principally an accounting qualification to include Information Systems, Economics, Mathematics, Statistical Sciences or Law as optional majors. The BCom (Hons) was first offered in 1969 and current Honours fields are Actuarial Science, Financial Accounting, Financial Management, Taxation, Economics, Statistics, Information Systems, Human Resource Management and Organisational Psychology. In the year 1981 a Conversion Course aimed at graduates from other disciplines wishing to qualify as Chartered Accountants was offered for the first time.

Also in 1981 two new higher degrees were introduced: the Master of Philosophy to cater for cross-disciplinary research, and the Doctor of Economic Sciences to be awarded on the basis of publications. The Faculty is also offering five one year full-time Postgraduate Diplomas in Management.

During 1991 the staff offering Quantitative Methods courses in the Business Science Department joined with the staff of the Department of Mathematical Statistics to form a new Department of Statistical Sciences. Staff of this Department were given the choice of becoming members of the Commerce Faculty or the Science Faculty. A total of 7 members of the Statistical Sciences Department became members of the Faculty of Commerce.

In 1994, it was decided to merge the Industrial Psychology section of the Department of Psychology with the Department of Business Science. The Department of Organisation and Management was also brought into the department to form The School of Management Studies. The School comprises four sections, viz, Business Science, Actuarial Science, Human Resource Management and Organisational Psychology.

The Faculty of Commerce has grown to comprise the Department of Accounting, the School of Management Studies, the School of Economics and the Graduate School of Business, the Department of Information Systems and certain members of the Department of Statistical Sciences.

In December 1997 then Department of Business Science, the Department of Accounting, the School of Economics and the Faculty Office moved to new quarters in the Leslie Commerce Building. Many distinguished names have been associated with the Faculty of Commerce, but it is fitting that the name of the man who was the driving force behind the Faculty's founding, and its first Dean, should be commemorated in this fine building, its congenial atmosphere and outstanding design making it a worthy successor to the faculty's original premises - the historic Hiddingh Campus in the shadow of the Lioness Gate.