UAE. Executive Director of INSEAD’s Abu Dhabi Centre, Peter Jadersten, has a mission not to create just local learning programmes, but to integrate fully with the French business school’s rich international environment. BI-ME talked to him about the challenges and opportunities for building up a new faculty and research base in the UAE capital.
Business executives from Abu Dhabi and the region gathered together last month at a seminar entitled 'Managing People, Technology and Operations in a changing world' organised by leading international executive business school INSEAD to discuss management best practice in times of economic global crisis.
Representatives from Masdar and Mubadala participated in the panel discussion which covered best practice management techniques from a local perspective while INSEAD faculty shared its latest global research on the topic, which is currently under the spotlight during these turbulent economic times. Some 15 senior faculty members from INSEAD’s Technology, Operations and Management (TOM) area visited Abu Dhabi to learn more about the region and to meet with local members of the public and private sectors. The visits come at a time when the UAE and the GCC region are finding their traditional role as the world’s energy providers coming into question.
Everywhere we look, we see the governments of the region, in Qatar, Oman and Saudi Arabia also, developing programmes to create the new leaders of the future and to shift the agenda from being commodity-based economies, to innovation- and knowledge-based economies. The great business schools of the world have recognised this as a long-term structural shift that will create opportunities for many years to come.
As one of the world’s leading and largest graduate business schools, INSEAD brings together people, cultures and ideas from around the world to change lives and transform organisations. This worldly perspective and cultural diversity are reflected in all aspects of its research and teaching.
With two campuses in Asia (Singapore) and Europe (France), a centre in Abu Dhabi and an office in New York, INSEAD extends the reach of its business education and research across three continents. Its 137 renowned faculty members from 32 countries inspire more than 1,000 degree participants in its MBA, Executive MBA and PhD programmes. In addition, more than 9,500 executives participate in INSEAD’s executive education programmes.
With the INSEAD-Wharton Alliance, it delivers MBA and co-branded executive education programmes on Wharton's US campuses in Philadelphia and San Francisco, as well as on our campuses in Asia and Europe. Its thought leadership platform INSEAD Knowledge features articles and podcasts (audio and video) showcasing the school's leading-edge research.
The new Abu Dhabi Centre will play a central role in INSEAD's global business education network, ensuring a permanent presence in the Middle East. Company specific and open-enrolment programmes for executives with a focus on the Middle East will be held at the new Centre. Some company specific programmes have already taken place. The first open-enrolment programme, entitled 'Management of People in the Middle East', offers practical insights in aligning people and corporate strategy in enterprises in the Middle East and North Africa.
Research activities will focus on issues in the Middle East and cover areas such as humanitarian logistics, human resources management and information and communication technology.
The INSEAD Global Leadership Centre is planning a study on the leadership characteristics of successful women and executives in the Middle East.
The INSEAD Healthcare Management Initiative is developing a collaborative research programme to make a sustainable contribution to health and life sciences in Abu Dhabi and the region. This initiative will play a prominent role at the new centre and will be a resource and partner with healthcare authorities and universities to develop the region's life and science sector.
The INSEAD Knowledge website, which showcases faculty research, is planning to develop an Arabic version.
BI-ME: What is the background of INSEAD and the Middle East region and what are your goals?
PJ: Our goal is to reach out to the business community. We are well known amongst executives and the government sector with our Singapore and Fontainebleau campuses and this is the same positioning we are working towards in the UAE.
The Centre for Executive Education and Research in Abu Dhabi opened in September 2007 after exploring the Middle East for three to four years. We researched extensively with our alumni and friends and finally decided to set up here.
BI-ME: Was there a strategic or specific reason why INSEAD chose to open the Centre in Abu Dhabi over other parts of the Middle East?
PJ: Yes the UAE is one of the most developed countries in this part of the world and is used by many of the multi-nationals as a hub for the Middle East, so it's natural for INSEAD to have a presence there. We chose Abu Dhabi because the Abu Dhabi Education Council offered us the best possible partnership agreement. The Council has supplied the required funding to make the Centre a success and very importantly, is allowing INSEAD to operate and organise the Centre in a manner that can be fully integrated into INSEAD.
We know from our experience in Singapore with the Singapore Economic Development Board that it is important to find an excellent partner. The Emirates have established themselves as the number one regional hub and this is significant not only for the multi-nationals but also the fast-expanding Middle East business groups. When we first started here, this aspect was not so obvious.
We are fortunate that HH Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed Al Nahyan [Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi and Deputy Supreme Commander of the UAE Armed Forces] is actively giving his support.
BI-ME: What was the reaction from local companies and business leaders to the opening of the Centre?
PJ: Business leaders and companies in the UAE are very excited about the Centre even though we are still quite low profile. Even people that I have met outside the region are very excited about it and that INSEAD has created a presence in the Middle East which is strategically an important region in the world.
BI-ME: How many full time administrative staff will be working at the centre?
PJ: I envisage that we will have about 15 to 20 full time staff by the end of this year.
BI-ME: What are the executive education programmes you are working on and what are the plans for MBAs and integration with other INSEAD courses around the world?
PJ: We had already started extending specific company programmes for the UAE and the region before the Centre started, for example with the National Commercial Bank in Jeddah. We had already acquired clients and this has been the majority of our business.
We also have four open enrollment programmes since last year and companies can select one of two packages from these. These are slowly growing and we want to make sure we attract people from outside the region, to maintain the element of diversity in a rich learning environment that INSEAD is known for.
This year we will launch our largest executive education programme, the International Executive Programme as a split project with two weeks in Singapore, two weeks in Abu Dhabi and two weeks in France. For us, having gone through the experience in Singapore, enables us to meet the challenge of mobilising all the internal resources of INSEAD.
BI-ME: How will you work with the other INSEAD facilities, since the prospect of offering an international experience, with case studies and exposure to business on three continents will be very attractive to many students?
PJ: We have the faculty, with the posts that we have all around the world. The aim is not to do local business. The challenge is to integrate this with distance. For example all our internal meetings are held via video link, so here in Abu Dhabi we are just another screen or location. And Abu Dhabi is well positioned for the time zones.
This is increasing the attractiveness of what we already have and gives us much higher visibility in this part of the world. It gives our faculty more opportunity to do research for the INSEAD MBA and it enhances our global studies.
BI-ME: When we speak about the MBA programme, how do you explain it to potential students? Since it requires a huge effort from the student and the backing of their employer, what does it mean to achieve an INSEAD MBA?
PJ: Right now we are offering executive education and research from here in Abu Dhabi, although not the full MBA programme. The INSEAD MBA is offered in France and Singapore as an intense ten-month programme.
The feedback from our alumni meetings and former INSEAD MBA students this year shows that everyone agreed it was worthwhile. But what was more interesting was that they all said it was a life-changing experience in quite a deep way.
BI-ME: Can you tell us about the new premises of the Centre?
PJ: Yes, we have been very lucky in finding a large villa only five minutes away from the Corniche in Abu Dhabi. It used to serve as the residency of the Saudi Arabian Ambassador to the UAE. It is very characteristic for the region and there are four large reception rooms of which we will convert one or two into flat rooms for teaching.
BI-ME: How often does INSEAD intend to hold programmes at the Centre?
PJ: We expect to run three or four open enrolment programmes over the next 12 months. We are discussing which programmes they should be at the moment. We already have established relationships with local businesses for which we have been running company specific programmes (programmes specifically built around the clients needs) for the last three to four years. The Centre will continue to run these programmes.
BI-ME: Are there certain advantages for businesses in certain sectors, such as the oil and gas industry, to send its employees to attend a programme at the new Centre because of its location?
PJ: Yes, we have had this discussion with some of the large Western oil companies that we run company specific programmes for. They are very excited about our presence in the Middle East and see the possibility of running part of their programmes at the new Centre because of the strategic importance of the Middle East for their businesses.
BI-ME: Other than energy, are there any other sectors that have shown specific interest in tailoring courses?
PJ: I would say that the interest is quite broad and includes all sectors, including financial institutions and the government sector. The INSEAD programme is unique in that no one methodology is more than 14%. We are running a Masters programme for the Department of Civil Service which is similar in format to the Executive MBA.
For us now, it is critical to build the faculty here, to build the base, to produce cases and teaching materials from the Middle East region. Companies from all sectors can benefit from management education. You see it in all types of sectors, and this brings diversity to the programme.
BI-ME: Are there any other educational centres in Abu Dhabi that are similar to INSEAD's Research Centre?
PJ: We are the only establishment in our sector that has a presence in Abu Dhabi at the moment. Other areas in the Middle East such as Dubai, Qatar and Saudi Arabia are making an effort to attract other business schools to their regions, so I don't think we can expect to remain alone, with no competition for long. However, we are well equipped to manage and integrate our new centre as we already operate on multiple campuses. This gives us an advantage over other business schools.
BI-ME: Will the Centre focus on certain academic areas for its programmes and research, such as leadership, or family business?
PJ: Research at the Centre will be as broad as the interests of the INSEAD faculty. We have received enough funding from local sources to operate and support all of the Centre's research projects, but we do need to ensure that the research brings value back to the UAE.
Our programmes will be client driven and to some extent, regionally driven. For example, there is a lot of privatisation in certain countries in the area, specifically Saudi Arabia, small family businesses are expanding, therefore going through an internationalisation process, there is increasing competition in the area due to deregulation. All of these developments drive the need for executive education as businesses need to ensure that their key employees can steer the business in the right direction.
BI-ME: So will part of the MBA or EMBA courses be held in Abu Dhabi in the future?
PJ: The Centre was opened for executive education and research and this is what we are going to focus on for the next three years. We may hold field trips for the MBA programme and some of the modules of the EMBA programme maybe held in Abu Dhabi, but at the moment we don't foresee the Centre going beyond that.
BI-ME: How would you like to see the Centre develop in the next few years?
PJ: We will focus on the successful integration and establishment of the new Centre in its research and executive education programmes so that we reach the expectations of our external communities in Abu Dhabi, our alumni and the faculty and staff at INSEAD.
BI-ME: Will alumni events be held at the Centre?
PJ: Yes, frequently. We have already held cocktail events to which we invited alumni who are based in the Middle East and intend to do this each time our Dean or a faculty member is at the centre. Frank Brown will be in Abu Dhabi frequently, whenever his presence is required and also as Abu Dhabi offers a convenient stopping point being situated between our two campuses.
BI-ME: Would you like alumni to participate in programmes by making presentations and talking about their experiences at the Abu Dhabi Centre?
PJ: Yes. Our alumni are as welcomed to participate in our programmes in Abu Dhabi as they are in Fontainebleau and Singapore. It's a natural way for INSEAD to involve its alumni beyond their graduation. We expect that some faces visiting Abu Dhabi will stay and find jobs, through the MBA group visits and through our alliance with Wharton. There is a lot of external interest in the Middle East region, and this is very much a part of what we are about.
For more information about the Abu Dhabi Centre, contact email@example.com