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A U.K.-based business school addresses the dearth of women academics in the Middle East through a PhD program that removes the residential requirement. BY ZAHIR IRANI ILLUSTRATION BY 2COMMUNIQUÉ IT WAS TEN YEARS AGO WHEN I started writing about the risk of an "academic black hole" in the six Arab nations that make up the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) region: Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, and the United Arab Emirates. I argued then that business schools in the West needed to broker more partnerships with schools in the GCC. My belief was—and still is—that such partnerships would cultivate mutual understanding among schools, build the capacity for business research and insights at GCC universities, and help GCC economies become more diversified and independent from oil revenues. What was not at the top of my mind then, however, was the role of women. But I've increasingly learned of the cul- tural diŠerences that have traditionally made it di‹cult, if not impossible, for women in the region to study overseas. For that reason, they neither benefit from the academic rigor and traditions of the best Western universities nor gain exposure to diŠerent intellectual cultures. Moreover, businesses in the region are deprived of new perspectives from women involved in business research. These factors have limited the potential for innovation and blocked the full participation of women in the workplace. When Brunel Business School in London set up a partnership with Ahlia University, a private institution in Hoora, Bahrain, we found a real need and desire among women to contribute new ideas, drive change, and be part of a new environment for business in the Middle East. To meet that need, we worked with Ahlia University in 2007 to set up a new kind of doctoral program—a PhD without residence. Our vision was to allow students, especially women, to study for a British research degree while based at their local institution. OPENING FOR DOCTORATES DOORS 50 BizEd JULY | AUGUST 2015

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