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"Cass MBA graduates are truly citizens of the world"

This month, the Cass Executive MBA in Dubai programme marked a milestone achievement, having celebrated the graduation success of its 10th cohort. Professor Roy Batchelor, former Course Director of the programme, reflects on the programme’s journey.

by Nahda Abdalla (Senior Communications Officer (Dubai))

It may have been a little over 10 years since City, University of London’s Dubai Centre welcomed the very first cohort of its Cass Executive MBA (EMBA) in Dubai programme, but Professor Roy Batchelor, Professor of Banking and Finance and Director MBA Finance, has vivid memories of meeting the first group of 34 students. He says it was a “special” moment for him.

“Our premises in DIFC Gate Village were still under construction so teaching was in the rather sleek boardroom on top of the Gate building itself. They were brave souls, this class, who had believed our promise that we could deliver the first international Cass EMBA in Dubai. They weren’t disappointed – they are now spread across the globe, but still travel far to fetch up at alumni reunions,” Roy recalls.

Cass EMBA - a world first

When Cass Business School launched its internationally-acclaimed EMBA programme in Dubai, in 2007, it was responding to market demand in the UAE and wider Middle East. In addition to offering a wide selection of general management MBA electives, the two-year programme introduced specialised streams in Islamic finance and energy, marking a world first.

Roy, who served as Course Director of the programme from 2009 to 2016 explains that these electives were developed especially for Dubai, and lecturers were encouraged to develop regionally relevant case studies.

“At all levels, we had the needs of the MENA region in mind. A new Virtual Learning Environment was developed specifically for the programme, before such a resource existed for our students at our London campus, and senior professors at Cass commissioned to write dedicated materials for this.”

Why Cass?

Designed for the working professional in mind and operating from the Dubai International Financial Centre, the two-year programme is delivered by world-class Cass academics, in intensive blocks of three to four consecutive days, once a month.

Roy says that the location of the DIFC appealed to Dubai-based and fly-in students, who travelled from as far as Eastern Europe and West Africa to study on the EMBA.

A key feature of the EMBA is its flexibility, enabling executives in full-time employment to achieve a balance between demanding work schedules, studies, and family life.

Students on the programme benefit from the expertise of international Cass faculty who use their leading research and first-hand industry knowledge in the classroom. Thanks to an environment that is defined by a diverse cohort of students who come from a range of professional backgrounds, candidates have the valuable opportunity to expand their networks and build lifelong relationships with the Cass community.

Roy says: “Numbers on the course have grown over the years, and the gender balance, while fluctuating from year to year, has improved, reflecting the growing demands for higher and executive education by women across MENA, and their presence at ever higher levels of management.

The titles of the core courses have remained unchanged, but with the changing global scene, and the evolving visions for the Gulf economies, the contents are forever being refreshed. Our Strategy professors are now engaged with the business models of the digital era, and the ethical problems they pose. Sustainability is now threaded through almost everything the students study. Their choices of electives have changed markedly, with less interest in traditional project management type courses, and more focus on Entrepreneurship, New Venture Creation, and Digital Marketing and Strategy.

As the programme continues to grow from strength to strength, there is greater interaction between Cass students from the home campus and Dubai, through the flagship Cass MBA London Symposium, study tours and consultancy trips to Silicon Valley, China, Colombia, Vietnam and South Africa.

Furthermore, through the annual UAE Study Tour of leading businesses in the country, London-based Cass MBA students are able to visit the UAE to better understand the drivers of its economy and society.

UAE Study Tour

Roy, who has been leading the UAE Study Tour for the last 10 years, proudly admits that more often than not, it is Cass alumni leading these organisations.

One of the pleasures of organising this tour is that in almost every sector – finance, real estate, retail, hospitality, trade, renewables, and more – I can find excellent Cass alumni working at leadership levels, or carving out their own niche businesses. They are always more than happy to share their insights and experiences with our students, and talk about how much they owed to their time on the Cass EMBA.

More than 400 students have since graduated from the EMBA programme via Dubai. Moreover, this month marked a milestone achievement for the programme as it celebrated the graduation of its 10th cohort.

Roy says that he feels proud to have a played a role in sustaining the EMBA “through good times and bad”.

“With every graduating cohort, we are helping to develop some admirable leaders of society and business, people that the MENA region needs if it is to push through its current problems and achieve its huge potential. Some of our alumni have moved to London and while others are based around the globe. Chasing up an early graduate from India, I recently found him in New Zealand, and working for a French company. Our Cass MBA graduates are truly citizens of the world.”

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