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Alan Manly has more than thirty years of experience in the technology and education industries, and this bank of knowledge has culminated in the foundation of Group Colleges Australia (GCA) — a range of training institutions that ten years ago was expanded to include the Universal Business School Sydney (UBSS) MBA program in order to support the next wave of Australia’s entrepreneurs.

Having learned a little bit about teaching and educating people through his work with the computer programming college, he quickly noticed that the majority of students followed a similar pattern when it came to their higher-education journey. He observed three key things: people would typically do a certificate, a diploma, and then a degree; the education industry was staid; and there was no difference between how high-school and university students were treated.

“I concluded that what the country needed was a group of colleges that would address those various issues, rather than just the one. I also thought that a private organisation could treat students as customers, rather than using the traditional student–teacher discourse.”

The idea for GCA was set. Alan subsequently launched the college with high-end technology in place to deal with the administration side of things, thus resulting in no enrolment queues as everything was done online. “We developed one of the more-advanced online student management systems there is, probably the best out of any private college. That was the biggest opportunity I saw: to make technology a differentiator for GCA.”

He quickly recognised that having short queues couldn’t be the only selling point. GCA needed to offer something more than just an efficient and highly automated back office. The front office operations were important too, so GCA needed to have a great product offering. “For several years now, we’ve had the MBA, or Master of Business Administration, through our member company UBSS,” Alan says. “We promote that as an entrepreneur’s MBA, and we’re not the only ones to do that; I’m sure if you look it up, there are dozens of colleges that have the same claim. However, our difference is that UBSS was founded and is managed by an entrepreneur — which is my good self. Other MBA courses are delivered by government-owned entities. If you are to compare an institution run by a government department with one that might have the soul of an entrepreneur, there’s a pretty obvious differentiator there. That’s what we wish to promote at UBSS.”

- CEO Magazine, September 2016