DUBAI—During a regional meeting of business academics in Dubai last month there was a consensus that business education and research in the Arab region have a problem: They need to get more bang for their buck. Business-school graduates are not that welcome by employers, and business-school research has had little impact on corporate practices.
“Business education has been a growth industry in our region for the last few decades,” George Khalil Najjar, vice president for university advancement at the Lebanese American University, said during a presentation to the Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business’s Middle East Summit. “But the question is now: Did we generate impact commensurate with the effort? That’s rhetorical because I’m contending that it isn’t.”
Since 2015, the number of business schools accredited by the association in the Middle East has increased by 54 percent, from 13 to 20.
Others agreed with Najjar’s comments. Karim Seghir, chancellor of Ajman University in the United Arab Emirates, pointed out that graduates of business schools in the region, like many other graduates, are not valued in the job market. “Unemployment is the region’s most threatening issue—even more so when you learn 38 percent of the unemployed are university graduates,” he said, making it clear he felt that figure included business graduates.
[Enjoying this article? Subscribe to our free newsletter.]
According to data from QS University Rankings, employer recruitment of students who graduated with a Master of Business Administration degree in the Middle East and Africa grew by just 2 percent in 2019, compared to 2018. This contrasts with 18 percent growth in the Asia-Pacific region and 12 percent growth in Eastern Europe. The lower recruitment in the Middle East occurred despite the fact that employers were more willing to take graduates with little or no work experience than employers in other regions.
Not Enough Time for Research
These employment statistics are just one of the symptoms of what Najjar termed an “impact deficit.” He went on to explain that he thought the causes of this deficit were diverse, but he emphasised that he thought professors were too overworked with other responsibilities to produce ground-breaking research.
“How many people here come from institutions with a heavy teaching burden?” he asked the conference. The vast majority of the 121 attendees raised their hands.
Other data would seem to back him up. Al-Fanar Media recently conducted a survey of 650 researchers of all fields from across the Arab world and over a third of those surveyed, who included business-school professors, said they don’t have enough time to properly do their research. Teaching was their most commonly cited duty in addition to research. (See a related article, “Not Just Money: Arab Region Researchers Face a Complex Web of Barriers.”)