Cass MBA students participate in UAE study tour, gaining fresh insights into business culture of the Middle East

Now in its 10th year, the four-day elective is based on structured company visits and cultural encounters.

Having established themselves as global cities in just a little over four decades, the story of Dubai and Abu Dhabi’s transformation from sleepy fishing villages is both remarkable and inspiring. Diversity, modern infrastructure and the UAE’s unique strategic location are all factors that continue to lure international corporations to use the Gulf country as a base for their operations in the region.

As the UAE looks to the future, Cass Business School’s MBA students and alumni had the rare opportunity to get access to leading companies in the UAE, gaining fresh perspectives on the realities of doing business in the country and wider region.

The twenty participants, who come from both Cass’s London and Dubai campuses, were led by Professor Roy Batchelor, Professor of Banking and Finance, on a four-day study tour, comprising visits to companies and presentations by thought leaders in sectors such as banking, real estate, hospitality and retail, and trade and transportation.

The tour took in meetings with Dubai Tourism and Commerce Marketing, Emirates Aviation College – Crew Training, Majid Al Futtaim, First Abu Dhabi Bank, Masdar City, Nakheel, Expo 2020 Dubai, Dubai Islamic Economy Development Centre, and the DIFC Fintech Hive.

Also on the itinerary were visits to the Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque, Yas Island – home to the world’s first Ferrari-branded theme park – and Jumeirah Mina A’Salam. For the London-based participants, these encounters offered a glimpse into local customs and traditions.

Professor Batchelor said the aim of these visits is to help participants gain a better understanding of what really drives activity in the region.

“Escaping to the UAE from the current fractured politics of Europe, it is refreshing to be in an environment where there is a clear forward-looking vision, and the energies of very different businesses are so clearly aligned to this vision. Very striking this year has been the emphasis placed on ensuring sustainability. Beyond their academic learning, many of our students aim to develop their careers in the Middle East, and for them the study tour is an invaluable opportunity to build those important professional relationships that are key to success,” he said.

Key takeaways

Cass student Zafar Hassan (London FTMBA, 2020) said taking part in the module was an eye-opening experience.

The UAE Study Tour helped me understand how Dubai’s futuristic vision is a reflection of its strong and inspiring leadership. The presentation that was delivered at Nakheel demonstrated the master-developer’s instrumental role in developing Dubai’s coastline and the impact that has had on the tourism industry. Additionally, I very much enjoyed touring the Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque and Masdar.

Oliver Yogananthan (London FTMBA, 2020) said:

It was fascinating to learn about the cultural and economic underpinnings of the UAE and how the country was able to grow into a developed nation within a span of forty years. My two highlights were the visits to Nakheel and Expo2020; seeing how things were planned and executed to become such wonderful projects was inspiring. Networking with Cass MBA students from the Dubai campus was great fun.

Romila Dominique (London Modular MBA, 2018) said:

The purpose of my participation in the module was to learn about the UAE’s economic development and branding. It was wonderful to see how the country seizes every opportunity to take their projects globally. As an alumna, I wasn’t carrying the burden of having to complete an assignment – so that was an added bonus!

Ayotunde Orunmuyi (Dubai EMBA, 2019) said:

Top contenders were the visits to Nakheel, Majid Al Futtaim, Expo 2020 Dubai, and the DIFC Fintech Hive. Other highlights included Dubai Tourism and Commerce Marketing and the Dubai Islamic Economic Development Center (DIEDC). The former got top marks from me for its exemplary operationalisation of marketing, strategy, and digital innovation. DIEDC, on the other hand, provided an insight into the underlying economic ideology of the leaders of the UAE; a potentially veritable topic for future research.