Dec. 14, 2016

Randa Bessiso

UAE, Dubai

Randa Bessiso

Director – Middle East, University of Manchester

"We cover the cost of accommodation in two locations in order to give them a more global perspective and network."


Randa Bessiso has spent much of her career working on market entry strategies, company start ups and channel development programs, as well as building profitable regional businesses and brands. She has more than 20 years of experience in business education and is the founding director of Manchester Business School (MBS) Middle East Centre. She has been recognized among the 100 Most Powerful Arab Businesswomen by Forbes Middle East for the past three years. In addition to founding the Middle East Centre, she has played a central role in establishing the MBS Middle East Alumni Association, and built a wide range of collaborations with organizations and professional bodies including IMA, ACCA, CIMA, and PMI. She is also Chair of the UAE-UK Business Council’s Higher Education Group.

What is the business school's main source of students?

We have over 100 nationalities represented on our Manchester Business School (MBS) part-time MBA program, with around 45% of our 2,000 MBA students residing in the UAE and the balance in the GCC and wider region. As part of the program, we encourage and facilitate student visits to at least one of our five other international centers during their studies to attend student workshops. We cover the cost of accommodation in two locations in order to give them a more global perspective and network. We consistently have students coming from a core of industry sectors, including consultancy, engineering, construction management, software management, oil and gas, as well as ICT backgrounds. There has been an increase in the number of entrepreneurs becoming successful business owners after taking an MBA, and we have seen a surge in the number students pursuing an MBA to advance in their careers or move out of their industry. The MBA has been a real catalyst for entrepreneurs developing their own SMEs. Female participation has increased significantly over the past few semesters, reaching 20% of the latest student intake.

What expansion plans do you have to further support this growth?

On 1st January 2017 we officially became the University of Manchester Middle East Centre, and MBS is now one of the schools within the university that we support in the region. We are in an amazing country and a city where history is being made. This success has attracted the interest of the wider university and other schools to look at what else we could do here, starting with the school of engineering. We are now offering a new part-time MSc in Reliability Engineering and Asset Management. We will be expanding our premises here at Dubai Knowledge Park. At the moment we use the facilities at Dubai Knowledge Park and we also conduct some MBA student workshops at Dubai World Trade Centre, but we are bringing these in-house so over time we will have our own larger facilities to host engineering and international healthcare leadership workshops.

How is the syllabus changing to reflect the needs of the working world?

We make sure that we keep our programs relevant to global trends, not just those within the UAE and Middle East. Our core program is the Global Part-time MBA for working professionals across the globe. The MBA program that we offer here is fundamentally the same program that we offer in Manchester, Shanghai, Hong Kong, Singapore, and the US, through our partnership with Kelly School of Business and in Brazil through our partnership with FVG. We have redesigned our part-time MBA as a two-year program, starting from January 2017. There is still a level of flexibility within the program and students can still extend the course to five years if necessary. In the redesigned MBA, we have moved away from individual subjects to management themes and within those themes we are teaching in modules and focusing on learning through experience. Experiential and practice-based learning is at the heart of the way MBS works. We always look at the regions that our students are coming from and try to ensure that our program reflects some of the local business conditions. MBS operates from business hubs in regions across the world, which helps to make the global MBA relevant to the global business audience. The same approach applies to the executive education short courses that we have also introduced into the region.

How does the business school complement the policy of developing a knowledge economy?

Business education is key to developing knowledge economies. We support the development and retention of talent through business education and help attract talented business professionals to the region. The business education provider plays a significant role in designing and delivering programs to match the visions of the countries in the region, and acts as an enabler for achieving governments objectives. Creativity and innovation must be at the heart of everything that we do to enable these knowledge-based economies, and education is key to developing a successful, well-rounded national economy.

How does the public-private relationship work for you and how does it relate to the courses?

We have focused on building long-term relationships from the beginning. MBS has been in the region for more than 10 years and has become the largest and fastest-growing international branch of Manchester Business School. Public-private partnerships have a huge impact on business and we have invested a lot of effort in bringing in partners to help develop business ideas into tangible projects, as with our Manchester Innovation Award for Emiratis initiative, for example. We are also working with corporates within our Talent Management framework. Ultimately, we are helping to provide the academic framework to stimulate and promote innovation within the Emirates with an ecosystem to foster innovative business ideas.