A-LEVEL PLAYING FIELD

Dubai 2016 | EDUCATION | INTERVIEW

TBY talks to Randa Bessiso, Director-Middle East at Manchester Business School (MBS), on new program offerings, demand for MBA programs, and rebranding efforts.

 Randa Bessiso
BIOGRAPHY
Randa Bessiso has spent much of her career working on market entry strategies, start-ups, channel development programs, and building profitable regional businesses and brands. She has recently focused on management education, in which she has more than 20 years of experience, including her role as the founding director of the Manchester Business School (MBS) Middle East Centre. Randa was recognized in 2015 as one of the 100 Most Powerful Arab Women by Forbes Middle East. She was appointed Chair of the UAE-UK Business Council’s Higher Education Group. She is a regular speaker at executive forums in the UAE, especially on her special interest area of women in business.

What kind of programs have been your focus of late?

The University of Manchester has been active in considering the types of programs that may be successful within the Middle East, and we have held discussions with a number of schools that ultimately encouraged the university to move closer to the region. Our role has been to share our experience and knowledge of the region with our academic colleagues, based on almost 10 years of operating in Dubai. The university is taking a market-led approach to ensure that we meet the current and future knowledge and training needs of the region as defined by the public and private sectors. This is influenced by the visions of the regional governments, which are committed to economic diversification and moving toward knowledge-based economies and societies. The focus has been on the education and healthcare sectors, which are especially active. We have held initial discussions with the pharmacy school and also looked at the teacher training needs of the region to support capacity building in education. There is broad interest within the university, and we have spoken to a range of schools, from law to healthcare.

To what do you attribute the rapid growth in the interest in MBAs in the UAE?

Dubai's status as a regional business hub creates a rich business ecosystem that attracts many global professional organizations. Through radical innovation, the UAE has already attracted a number of top business schools to the country, creating access to high-quality learning opportunities. Many of these institutions offer a variety of MBA options and greater choices for students in terms of program focus, content, and learning format. Demand for the MBA degree amongst working professionals in the region remains strong, supported by our own experience. The MBS Middle East Centre is now the largest and fastest growing in the school's international network, supporting more than 1,900 part-time MBA students in the region. Around 30% of these students are already in C-level and senior management positions and around 10% are already educated at the master's level, underscoring the quality of the talent already living and working in the region. With top companies and talent already here and more coming, it is critical that business programs in the region meet working professionals' demands for a high quality and rich student experience, exposure to top faculty, and globally recognized and accredited programs. As the business education market in the UAE continues to mature, more MBA choices have been made available to students. The UAE's buoyant economy, further sparked by Expo 2020, will certainly lead to enhanced career opportunities, with more than 250,000 new jobs to be created according to estimates. All of this emphasizes the strong outlook for the future of business education in the region and confirms that all the ingredients are here to support its continued development and contribution to the UAE's emerging knowledge economy.

What is the reason behind the recent name change of MBS?

The UK campus-based business school was renamed Alliance Manchester Business School following the generous and substantial donation by Lord Alliance of Manchester, which is the culmination of a long history of collaboration and support between the University and alumni as a whole. The MBS regional center, including the Middle East, will continue as Manchester Business School centers, primarily because they will be rebranded as University of Manchester (UoM) centers starting in 2017. We will move to the UoM branding directly rather than taking another interim branding step. Alongside this rebranding process, we will extend the academic offering to include programs from other departments in the university, beyond just the business school. The organic growth in our offerings of programs and services reflects the success of the MBS international network, which has created the opportunity and platform for the entire university to harness.