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UAE, ABU DHABI - Health & Education

Peter Zemsky & Roger Bassoul

Executive Director & Deputy Dean, INSEAD


Roger Bassoul has an extensive career in leadership positions within the Pharma industry. In the last 20 years, his work has focused primarily on Middle East and Africa. As a Regional Head at Acino (a privately owned Swiss company), and prior to that at Novartis and its generic subsidiary Sandoz, Roger focused on revenue growth, stakeholders alignment, portfolio development, geographical expansion, and talent building and retention.

Professor Zemsky has been a faculty member at INSEAD since 1994 and a member of the school’s leadership team since 2010. As Deputy Dean, he is responsible for external relations including fundraising, alumni relations and communications. As Dean of Innovation he is responsible for the school’s digital strategy including the development of its award winning online courses.


Roger Bassoul, Executive Director, and Peter Zemsky, Deputy Dean of INSEAD, talk to TBY about education in the UAE.
Roger Bassoul,
Executive Director,
Peter Zemsky, Deputy Dean, INSEAD
Peter Zemsky,
Deputy Dean,

We want to understand how INSEAD has evolved over time and what differentiates you from other business schools in the region?

Zemsky: INSEAD was founded in the late 1950s in Europe, about over 50 years after the top business schools in the US like Harvard and Wharton were started. What made INSEAD an effective late mover? There are three things behind this; we were mission focused from the outset, and we were the original and still the leading business school with a certain level of entrepreneurial spirit. Being mission focused is still part of what the school is all about and how we promote business, although we also make sure that we have broader positive impacts. Today, we are active in the sustainability arena and broadly ensuring that business is governed in a manner consistent with being social beings. And thirdly, were the first international business school with an MBA beyond the US. We have always been international.

Bassoul: In the region we benefit from the global experience of INSEAD. We are a truly global school; whatever program we offer in Abu Dhabi is identical to those you will find in Fontainebleau and Singapore. And meanwhile, our triple accreditation attests to our quality of education. What is also important to those joining INSEAD in Abu Dhabi is that they will be joining the INSEAD family with one of the most diversified alumni in the world. We have over 65,000 alumni and that automatically draws a lot of interest and affinity as well from those keen to join us. The other consideration is that we greatly value diversity. Abu Dhabi is the right place to be, the area that we are servicing is changing rapidly, and there is a profound evolution of new areas like start-ups, green energy, and sustainability.

How interactive is the new global executive MBA, and to what extent does it engage in research and development?

Bassoul: On this campus we offer the global executive MBA—the GEMBA and provide some executive education as well. The GEMBA program was initiated back in 2010 and over time we have expanded it to where today it is truly global. We have faculty that fly in and the curriculum that they follow at another campus is identically delivered here, while the elective component can be taken at different campuses. Proximity to real life developments is a key consideration, too, for our students. We are located in a region of rapid transformation in terms of technology and green energy, think tanks, crypto and blockchain. Abu Dhabi is also an ideal location for anyone from Turkey, Europe, Asia, the GCC, and Africa. The third point to mention is the renewed commercial interest in the region given today’s economic conjunction in Europe and the US, not least given the shoots of recession accentuated by COVID and the Ukraine-Russia war.

Zemsky: The global nature of GEMBA is studied over 14 to 16 months. The first features core classes that are entirely regional in nature. People have come together from Asia, Europe, and the Middle East to study together and learn the foundations of an MBA. Then, for the second half those groups come together globally; we go to France and then to a module in the Middle East. Meanwhile, we not only bring in top talent from the region also connect to a global network.

92% of your students are employed within three months. What strategies have led to such a high employment rate in the UAE?

Zemsky: The success of a program like this is also determined by who you admit. As a leading international business school, we have the privilege of admitting talent of proven commercial pedigree across a diverse geography. Today, one must deal with different functions like data scientists and coders and again, we have a group of leaders in their fields well versed in the skills diversity that underpins modern business life, and forms an integral part of the UAE economy.

Bassoul: For the UAE and Abu Dhabi specifically, the scope is a little bit smaller. We have to understand that these people arrive with a clear set of objectives. Either to enhance existing skill sets, radically change industries, or to go out on their own to fulfill entrepreneurial aspirations. With that, we spend a lot of time with our students to understand their specific goals. We have the professional leadership development program where we do a walk around of their aspirations to crystalize them better. Also, throughout the program we make coaches available to the student body. The outcome is tremendous because at the end of the day a key reference point for the school is the ultimate employability of our graduates. The UAE is a top country of appeal for our students and indeed, we rank among the top four countries of interest for our students.

What is the mission of INSEAD Abu Dhabi in 2023.

Bassoul: 2023 will be an important year for us because, being in the post-COVID era. Many activities have been postponed over the past two year that will now see the light of day. We will continue to attract talent to Abu Dhabi; this is fundamental for us, our partners and our ecosystem. We must also continue to focus on technology implementation, including our immersive learning digital library that helps identify us as a center of excellence. A third pillar for us is our outreach in the community and beyond, which will see renewed activity going forward.

Zemsky: In a global perspective, we perceive Abu Dhabi as a major growth opportunity in 2023. We expect two things; economically, we expect it to outperform other regions in the coming year. And secondly, we expect to see a real fit of our values in the UAE and our own mission in terms of tolerance and openness.



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