Professor Brenda Mary Gourley holds an MBL (Master of Business Leadership) from Unisa. In 2011, Unisa conferred on her the honorary degree of Doctor of Literature and Philosophy.

Professor Gourley qualified as a chartered accountant at Wits University, where she was the only woman in a class of some 500 students — a start in academia that forecast the trailblazing nature of her career. After working as an articled clerk, she lectured in accounting and finance at the University of Natal in Durban, becoming a professor and then a dean. With her eventual appointment in 1994 as Vice-Chancellor of the University of Natal, she made history as South Africa’s first female university Vice-Chancellor. Later, as Vice-Chancellor of the Open University (the UK’s leading distance learning institution), she initiated a strong policy of supportive funding for services to Africa. She also made the Open University the first British university to offer, on a very substantial scale, free educational resources via the Internet.