Q: How is the market for university business courses in the region? Is demand growing?
A: The University of Manchester’s Alliance Manchester Business School, through its Middle East Centre in Dubai, has been actively enrolling and supporting students in the region since 2006, focusing on the Global Part-time MBA programme; we have graduated more than 1,100 students and supported more than 2,200 – all highly qualified and experienced working professionals and many already in senior roles across all the major industry sectors in the region.
Our latest MBA student intakes (we have two per year – January and July) have added strong cohorts of new students, so demand in the region for the MBA – still the pre-eminent general management qualification - remains strong. This has been helped by the development of our programme as a two-year course and refinement of the content, as well as its flexibility and blended learning format.
We are very positive and optimistic about the Middle East market and demand for high-quality business education and we are committed to developing our presence and impact here, with a range of new business education opportunities.
Over the last few months, we have launched in the region the first of a series of new industry-led masters programmes (MA Educational Leadership in Practice, Kelley Manchester Global Part-time (Dual) MBA and MSc Real Estate) and executive education short courses in Creativity & Innovation, Negotiation, Leadership, and the Manchester Management Development Programme.
Q: What types of courses are proving most popular?
A: The MBA is still the flagship business programme for many working professionals and demand remains strong for the Manchester Global Part-time MBA. The trend is towards shorter courses (one of the reasons our part-time MBA is now a 2-year course) and we see younger business people enrolling, as they look to accelerate their careers earlier and faster.
Specialist industry-led Masters programmes (such as the new MScs we have recently introduced in the region) are also becoming more popular as working professionals look to build on their existing experience and develop a deeper understanding of their areas of expertise.
Executive education is still in its infancy in the region and our new programmes aim to help mid-senior level executives build and refresh/maintain skills in key areas such as leadership and negotiation. The aim is to support working professionals through their careers with access to high-quality learning and development opportunities.
Q: What age group and demographics are most commonly doing business courses?
A: Our part-time MBA in Dubai students are typically in their early to mid-30s and female students typically account for 13-15% of each cohort; students represent dozens of nationalities and around two-thirds are resident in the UAE, with the balance from the GCC (especially Saudi Arabia) and wider Middle East. The vast majority of students are self-funded and are in roles ranging from senior executive to management and functional leadership.
The quality of students is paramount and we have found that MBA candidates in the region are very strong – around 10% joining the programme already have a Masters degree and many are already in senior management positions. The quality of fellow students is one of the key factors in overall student experience, and learning from peers by working together is an important component of the programme.
Q: What are the primary drivers for studying an MBA?
A: For the MBA, there are three prime motivators for students – accelerating an existing career, a desire to switch career, and those wanting to develop a more entrepreneurial career and who need a broader understanding of business and a general management perspective to achieve this.
For some of the more experienced and senior working professionals on our MBA, they may be looking to acquire a deeper academic understanding of the theories they have been using through their careers, and to broaden their business knowledge and perspectives – for example, a finance director looking to move into a general management role might want to learn more about marketing and leadership, and how all the functions of business integrate and interconnect.
Q: Who is paying for the MBA?
A: We do find that most of our students are self-financing and are taking responsibility for their own career development; as the regional economy develops and diversifies, one challenge is to encourage more companies to support (including financially) more of their management in training and development, as the workplace continues to transform and new skills and perspectives are needed. We do find that many of our self-funded MBA students, once they start the programme, are quickly recognised and supported by their employer in a variety of forms, such as flexible study time and new projects or assignments (and even promotions).
Q: How do courses in the Middle East compare with Europe and the US?
A: Global consistency is essential for us – we teach the same Global Part-time MBA programme around the world, with the same faculty, and aim to give every student the same high-quality learning experience. The same student application applies worldwide across our 6 centres, and every successful student is awarded the Manchester MBA by The University of Manchester, exactly the same degree as full-time students studying on campus. The part-time MBA is based on the full-time programme and is adapted to the blended learning format.
Q: What else can business schools do?
A: Business schools can offer a lot more than just teaching and the university offers business students in the region a range of careers services, a regional alumni group with more than 2,500 members, and a global network of contacts; senior-level networking is one of the prime reasons for joining a top MBA programme and we run an active networking programme. Beyond teaching and research, we actively collaborate with regional professional bodies, industry groups and with the public sector; we also host regular free to the public Masterclasses led by our senior faculty and undertake a series of community activities to support local charities.