ABU DHABI // Since opening in 2007, the Insead business school has raised the standard of business practices, from family-run companies to women entrepreneurs.
Ranked among the world’s top business schools by leading publications, the school has not only begun educating a new generation of Emirati business leaders but has been championing causes close to the heart of UAE leadership, such as women’s empowerment and executive education.
Haif Zamzam is an Emirati MBA graduate who chose to study at Insead’s Fontainebleu campus in France after seeing the work it was doing in Abu Dhabi, and its high international ranking. She graduated this summer.
She said Insead’s annual International Women’s Day events were a major contribution to UAE society.
“The UAE is a model in the region for its women’s empowerment efforts so having an organisation like Insead supporting women in the UAE is a natural fit,” Ms Zamzam said.
“Its International Women’s Day events act as an enabling platform that gathers role models from the community to discuss challenging and pressing issues.
“I believe it is the first of many initiatives that will further support the development of the society of the UAE with the strong support of its leadership and its people.”
Bringing organisations such as Insead to Abu Dhabi, she said, was a sign of the importance of education in the country’s growth.
“The UAE’s focus on human capital development stresses the need for its citizens and residents to keep striving for the best education to keep driving the ever-expanding economy,” Ms Zamzam said.
“Insead’s presence in Abu Dhabi further emphasises the dedication of the UAE to higher education, and emphasises Insead’s dedication to developing thought leaders.”
Prof Miguel Lobo, the campus director in Abu Dhabi, said International Women’s Day was a significant event for the campus.
Prominent inspirational women from around the region have spoken at the event, including Suzanne Al Houby, the first Arab woman to reach the summit of Mount Everest, and Capt Dana Al Marzouqi, a senior Emirati in Abu Dhabi Police.
“You are promoting women and increasing their self-confidence, but even more interesting is that because Insead has such a big international audience, these women have been really helpful in changing the vision of the idea of women leaders in the Middle East,” Prof Lobo said.
“We certainly plan to help that grow and we want to do more of that.”
The percentage of Emiratis who have gone through executive education at various government departments is a significant 41 per cent, and Prof Lobo said the idea was to establish Abu Dhabi as an international economic centre.
Executive courses last from two days to two weeks and focus on areas such as leadership development and international partnerships in private and government organisations.
“We are getting more into Dubai now and expanding regionally,” Prof Lobo said. “Our first focus was on the Abu Dhabi Government but our goal is to become a base for broader regional impact.”
While the UAE has many business schools and business-related degrees remain the most popular, Insead has maintained its spot among the handful of top-tier schools in a growing higher education market.
“Where second-tier schools are concerned in the UAE, there is too much supply,” Prof Lobo said. “But for the top-tier, demand is better than ever.”
With such a strong focus on making its courses local, family business has taken a lead role at the Abu Dhabi campus.
Ludo Van Der Hayden, the Mubadala professor of corporate governance and strategy, heads the school’s research in the field.
“Family business is the mainstream of business ownership in the [Arabian] Gulf,” Prof Van Der Hayden said.
In March, a four-day course on value creation for owners and directors will begin. Its target audience is private businesses.
“There are lots of courses for executives but this is really about the business strategy for owners and directors, such as appointing board members,” Prof Van Der Hayden said.
Prof Lobo said such courses are vital for the UAE, which is developing rapidly into a regional business centre for future generations.
“We are a part of that and one element making a contribution to that,” he said.