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Making his second visit to Dubai in two years, David Thomas, the dean of Georgetown University’s McDonough School of Business, was on the lookout for something more.

Aside from connecting with the alumni in the UAE, he met with the Knowledge and Human Development Authority (KHDA) to scout for opportunities to launch an MBA programme in the UAE.

In 2005, the Washington DC- based university opened the School of Foreign Service in Qatar. It is a branch campus of the Georgetown University Edmund A Walsh School of Foreign Service. But there are no such campuses for the business school outside the US. For now, the institution sends students to work with companies in the UAE, which are often part of the alumni network, for their projects term. Here Mr Thomas talks about the future of business education in the UAE.

What brings you here?

Dubai is a priority city for us. We have a significant number of alumni here. A major goal is to reach out through our alumni in the region to help us raise the visibility of Georgetown’s business school here, and also to help us connect to the business community because one of the growing areas of the business school is executive education. We have also been in conversation with various companies here about potentially designing programmes that would address the specific needs of companies in the region. One of the things that have been identified by both the Dubai and UAE government is the need to focus on the development of human capital here. As a result of the World Expo here, a tremendous number of middle and upper management people would be coming to help them manage that. Associated with that there would be skill development and educational needs. We are creating conversations to help us be a part of that. We have identified 12 cities that will shape global business in the 21st century and Dubai is one of those cities. We also met with the KHDA to understand the process of establishing an educational presence in Dubai. We are exploring the possibility. There are no major US business schools with a physical pre­sence here, and that creates an opportunity for us.

How much does it cost for an MBA programme at Georgetown University?

The global executive MBA programmes cost $154,200 for the 2016-17 year. It can be completed in 18 months. The tuition for the regular, full-time two-year MBA programme is $56,892 a year.

What do you predict for the fut­ure of business education here in the Arabian Gulf?

The future is bright because I hear people talk about there being a level of technical knowledge that is available here, but not a lot of people that are trained in management and executive skills. A lot of expats are brought in to do the management work, but there is an interest in developing the indigenous population around management and executive skills. As a result of this – and this is looking long term – crisis in oil prices, a lot of Gulf states are going to take diversifying their economy more seriously, and that would focus on developing a set of skills, including management skills. Also, we will see more entrepreneurial activities in the region with the growing of small to medium-sized businesses. That also gives the opportunity for executive education.

How long have you been sending students to Dubai?

We have been sending students for projects in Dubai as part of the two-year MBA programmes as well as the executive MBA for at least 10 years. They have worked on projects in supply chain, real estate and marketing, among others. The projects last a semester. The students work half of the time in the US and come to Dubai for 10 days. They engage with the companies here, define their findings, and come back to the US. We send around 15 students each year to Dubai as part of those projects. We are talking with around eight companies in the Gulf region, many of whom have a presence in Dubai.

What are the future trends of business education?

One of them is lifelong learning. Anyone who goes through our programme, every two years they can take a course offered by the business school for free to stay current in their career. This builds a closer relationship with our alumni and they are critical to Georgetown University. For instance, scholarships are underwritten by a large part by the alumni. Other trends would include use of technology in delivering high-quality education and making business education more affordable and acces­sible between broader groups of people. For example, Starting a Startup that Matters is a programme where anyone can go online and watch [the class lectures] for free. It helps people who are interested in entrepreneurship but cannot attend Georgetown.
Page last updated 31 December 2019
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