Congratulations to Mr Riyaad Ismail, who completed his Master of Commerce degree cum laude! Riyaad is a Research Assistant in the Department of Business Management and will be graduating at the ceremony held on Wednesday, 15 December 2021. Riyaad has shared his experience and elaborated on his interesting and extremely relevant research topic…


In his school-going days, Riyaad was always an ‘average student’, putting in just enough effort to get an acceptable pass without having to sacrifice too much of his sport and social life. However, things all changed when he began his undergraduate degree in 2016. Riyaad credits positive peer-group pressure and a newfound desire to compete academically with his academic success, which saw him obtaining a ‘Top Student Award’ for his undergraduate BCom (General) degree, as well as his BCom Honours in Business Management degree (cum laude) in December 2019.


It was at this point when former Lecturer in the Department of Business Management, Dr Riyaadh Lillah approached him to be the Lead Researcher of a collaborative project between Nelson Mandela University, University of Pretoria, and Ghent University in Belgium. It didn’t require any second offers, as Riyaad jumped at the opportunity. This collaborative project focused on student entrepreneurship support at South African public universities as a means to mitigate youth unemployment. Under the supervision of Prof Shelley Farrington, this topic also became the focus of his Master's dissertation, titled: Student Entrepreneurship Support at South African Public Universities. “We conceptualised a university-based entrepreneurship eco-system (U-BEE) framework to assess the state of student entrepreneurship support offered at eight South African universities,” said Riyaad. The study highlights the best practices in terms of the elements in the U-BEE and the past (establishment) and current (operational) challenges experienced by student entrepreneurs in their business ventures.


A project of this magnitude does not come without its challenges. The process of obtaining ethics clearances from nine universities to conduct the research was an especially daunting and time-consuming hurdle. As a result, the study’s research protocol had to be amended on numerous occasions to adhere to the various institutional ethics requirements. In addition, during the two years that the study was being conducted, travelling and access to tertiary institutions were hampered by stringent lockdown and social-distancing regulations due to Covid-19. However, despite these challenges, Riyaad persevered and credited his supervisor, Prof Farrington, for helping him through the process with her continuous support and guidance.


The supervisor's commitment, expertise, and support influence the mindset and progress of a postgraduate student, and Prof Farrington fulfilled this role superbly. “Her goal was not just to assist me in getting my degree, but also to improve my research skills and help me grow as a person and as an academic. Thanks to her, my postgraduate journey became a pleasant one. Granted, for two years, she acted as my "conscience" – the last person I would speak to at night and the first person I would see in my Inbox in the morning.”


Riyaad concluded with some advice for those students who are contemplating pursuing a postgraduate degree. “Maintain a positive mindset. There will be times when giving up will seem like the obvious choice. However, with self-belief, effort, and patience, you can achieve anything you set your mind to.”

Contact information
Professor Shelley Farrington
Professor in Business Management
Tel: 27 41 504 2203