Dr Javier Gimeno describes the decision to bring one of the world's leading business schools to Abu Dhabi as a "convergence of dreams". Dr Gimeno, the dean of INSEAD's executive MBA programme, points out that all the pieces are in place to turn the UAE capital into "an educational hub for the Middle East". "We were looking for opportunities in the Middle East," the Spanish-born professor says. "This is a part of the world that is emerging. There are lots of businesses that are growing, there is a young population and there is a large need for business development."
INSEAD also has business schools in France and Singapore. Dr Gimeno, 44, who is also the professor of strategy at INSEAD, talks about the institute's desire to be a major player in preparing the region's business leaders of the future, and the launch here of a global executive MBA programme in October. Q Will future business leaders in the UAE take part in your programme? A Absolutely. The global executive MBA will be a key programme for developing the future business leaders because we are hoping to attract people from three to four hours' flying distance. People from Egypt, Sudan, the GCC, Pakistan and India will come to study in Abu Dhabi. This will consequently increase the quality of management education in Abu Dhabi, not only at the national level but also at regional level.
Are you hoping to attract Emirati students in the future? Definitely. We had conversations with companies such as (the Abu Dhabi Investment Authority), Mubadala and, more recently, Etihad Airways about this. We have a specific admission criteria based on academic credentials and work experience and we would love to have as many Emiratis as possible with those qualifications to join the programme.
What distinguishes INSEAD from other business schools? When we develop a campus, we actually put a faculty there. Many other business schools will have a building and staff but the faculty is not ? where the school is. Our model is not like that. We have faculty in Singapore and we have faculty in Abu Dhabi. That means we have local presence, we have local impact and we have local commitment. Certainly our vision is to develop our position in Abu Dhabi.
What attracted you to the capital? Convergence of dreams. One of the most important factors was the support from the Abu Dhabi Government. We were looking for opportunities in the Middle East. At the same time, the Government had a vision to develop Abu Dhabi as an educational hub for the region and we wanted to develop a base in the Middle East, so there was an alignment of ideas. It was on the radar for the Government and INSEAD. For us, Abu Dhabi is an open blue ocean to explore. It is an area where there is demand but not a lot of competition, because there is not much supply.
What will INSEAD get out of Abu Dhabi? And what should Abu Dhabi expect from INSEAD? I would like the support for developing an elite institution and an elite programme so that people will no longer have to fly to Boston or to London or to other schools to get the best degree ? and that requires a commitment from the Government, from the companies and also a commitment from individuals to support us. Having a programme like this in Abu Dhabi will enrich both the quality of the local population as well as the quality of the expatriates that you could attract to the region. As part of this programme, we are going to bring all of our global executive MBA participants from France and Singapore campuses to Abu Dhabi for a week of intensive study. We have 74 here from our Fontainebleau campus in France and only a few are from the Middle East. Many of them have never been to the region. This will help expose the rest of the world to what is happening in the Middle East and Abu Dhabi, and help to break some stereotypes. We need to let people know this is a booming area open for business.
What is the next big thing for INSEAD in Abu Dhabi? As well as the ongoing courses we are offering and the full-time MBA, we are going to start the global executive MBA programme from Abu Dhabi on the October 8. We will start with a class of 40 on our campus here, then join other global executive MBA participants in France before graduation in Singapore in December 2011. At the start of that programme, we will also increase the faculty in Abu Dhabi. As for the future, what I would like to see in five years is that INSEAD is the place to be for executive education.