MAKING CAREERS HAPPEN

Saudi Arabia 2015 | HEALTH & EDUCATION | INTERVIEW

TBY talks to Randa Bessiso, Middle East Director for the Manchester Business School (MBS), on the challenges of providing professional training to executives in Saudi Arabia, addressing the needs of the country's young population, and plans for the future.

Randa Bessiso
BIOGRAPHY
As the founding director, Randa Bessiso was instrumental in planning and establishing the Manchester Business School Middle East Centre, which opened in Dubai Knowledge Village in 2006. She has spent much of her career working on market entry strategies, company startups, and channel development programs, building profitable regional businesses and brands. Prior to joining MBS in 2005, she was the International Business Manager for UK eUniversities Worldwide, a British government-backed online education initiative. In 2014, Forbes Middle East ranked Randa amongst the top 200 most powerful Arab women.

What are some of your upcoming projects and goals for 2015?

2015 is a landmark year for MBS as we mark our 50th anniversary. The University of Manchester has received a landmark donation for the future development of Manchester Business School from Lord Alliance of Manchester and his fellow Trustees of the Alliance Family Foundation. In recognition of this support and Lord Alliance's long-standing relationship with the University and the Business School, the School will be named "Alliance Manchester Business School" or "Alliance MBS." The naming comes at a pivotal moment for the School as it continues to attract more world leading researchers and teachers, prepares to celebrate its 50th anniversary and breaks ground on a new building. In the Middle East, our main goals are to continue to recruit and support top quality students for our part-time MBA program, broadening our geographical coverage and creating greater access and deepening diversity with more female students. We also expect to see a rise in company-supported MBA students. We will also be nurturing the regional alumni association to provide ongoing support to the growing MBS community. We will extend our program portfolio with the launch of our Executive Education open program in Dubai – the first MBS program of its kind to be launched outside the UK. It is aimed at experienced managers who have been identified in succession plans to move into key positions and who need practical preparation for these roles.

What are some of the most pressing needs that you have recognized in the Saudi Arabian education sector, and how does MBS Middle East help to fill these holes?

In many ways, the business education needs of working professionals in Saudi Arabia are the same as in other countries in the region requiring flexible and convenient access to world class business programs, from top ranking business schools, leading to the award of globally recognized qualifications. Saudi Arabia is the largest source market in the region (after the UAE) for students for our part-time Global MBA and its blend of self study and regular workshops with our world-class faculty and peers in Dubai gives them a valuable face-to-face experience conveniently on their doorstep. Ongoing executive education is important to help the country build and maintain a strong, experienced cadre of well-educated business people, who have the leadership and management edge to help the country achieve its ambitious goals. MBS programs complement and supplement the strong higher education sector in the Kingdom, providing practical exposure to global business and management practices, and the nurturing of successful organizational leaders, business managers, functional specialists, and entrepreneurs. Most of our students are self-funded and one of our objectives is to encourage more support for MBA students in Saudi Arabia, as well as building talent management partnerships directly with employers in the Kingdom.

With by far the largest youth population in the GCC, how important is Saudi Arabia to the regional strategy of MBS Middle East?

Saudi Arabia is an important country to MBS Middle East Centre; since we opened in Dubai Knowledge Village in 2006, we have supported hundreds of part-time MBA students from the Kingdom. We meet current students and alumni there, as well as prospective students, and we can see for ourselves the potential demand for a range of business programs delivered flexibly and accessible to all parts of the community. The MBS programs are post experience qualifications for early-mid career working professionals that help them to accelerate their careers, facilitate career switches and support entrepreneurs. We are certainly looking at how best to build our student base in the Kingdom and to support our students at every stage of their education.