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The Olayan School of Business at the American University of Beirut has set its sights on expansion. “Business education today is a global activity and there is only one league, the big league, and if you cannot play in the big league you should get out of the game,” says George Khalil Najjar, the its deanof the school, .

“Becoming a second-rate provider is not something we are interested in.”

There is every indication that the school will achieve its aim, get where it aims to be, he adds. Lebanon has always been internationally orientated and so the school is playing to the country’s historic strengths.

The school It has recently increased its full-time faculty from 40 to 45, recruiting from the international market, including Greece, Turkey and the US. Olayan is also actively pursuing partnerships, largely on the research front, and has links with the London School of Economics and Political Science and Insead at Fontainebleau, France.

It has also embarked on a campaign to develop local case studies, alongside those it uses it already uses from Harvard Business School. Prof Najjar says the increased portfolio of case studies will complement the school’s pedagogy.

A further strategy is to increase the school’s student base: while its full-time MBA programme has its roots in the 1940s, the EMBA programme is still in the fledgling stages – it was established in 2003 but has already created a great deal of aroused interest from across the region.

Lebanon is dominated by family-owned companies but as the country has been increasingly integrated into the world market, there has been a corresponding rise in the professionalisation of management practices, adds Prof Najjar. The Olayan EMBA is aimed at this more senior level of management, he says.

“Furthermore, many on the EMBA [programmelost out on their education to the war years and now they are the bosses of employees with MBAs. So they, too, want to learn.”

Olayan boasts an impressive international board of overseers, including Gabriel Hawawini, the dean of Insead; Richard Schmalensee, dean of the MIT Sloan School of Management; George Boutros, managing director of Credit Suisse First Boston; Sir Geoffrey Owen, former editor of the Financial Times newspaper and a senior fellow at the London School of Economics; and Badr Al-Humaidhi, director-general of the Kuwait Fund for Arab Economic Development.

Business education at the AUB began more than 100 years ago remaining for much of that timeas a small department in the faculty of Arts and Sciences. In 2000 it became an independent schoolof business and the BBA and MBA degrees were subsequently revampe. In June 2003 the school was renamed the Suliman Olayan School of Business in honour of the late Saudi international businessman whose family has always been a significant sponsor of the AUB.

The school is actively pursuing accreditation from the US body the Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business AACSB and in time also hopes to acquire, in time, the stamp of approval from the European Foundation for Management Development’s accrediting arm, Equis.However, for the time being Prof Najjar is content that the school continues to aim for recognition as an international provider of quality business education and applied business research.

Copyright The Financial Times Limited 2017. All rights reserved.
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