Michigan State University ended all its undergraduate programs in Dubai. Apparently, they could never really reach the critical mass of the number of students required for it to be a financially viable enterprise.

Led me to sort of research Dubai (beyond what I knew – the city of giant buildings, swanky, huge hotels, man-made islands, shaky debt ridden economy and a few sovereign wealth funds – whose machinations are not publicly disclosed, of course:))

So, according to Wikipedia, “approximately 85% of the expatriate population (and 71% of the emirate’s total population) was Asian, chiefly Indian (51%), Pakistani (16%), Bangladeshi (9%) and Filipino (3%).”.

So why didn’t MSU get its critical mass of undergraduate students. Hmm, lets see and do some conjecturing. So, most of the expat population in Dubai (and UAE in general) are those engaged in labor. This is borne out by the facts- Again, according to Wikipedia, “According to the census conducted by the Statistics Centre of Dubai, the population of the emirate was 1,771,000 as of 2009, which included 1,370,000 males and 401,000 females.”. Read that again – 1.3 million makes and 400K women. Implies that there are a lot of migrant workers (who obviously cant or are not allowed to get their families with them).

So let’s see – then we have the educated workforce – like those working for arcane sovereign wealth funds, engineering companies, banks and such. They would much rather have their kids go to “real” American institutions of higher learning (as in, those, well – in America – assuming they are well off to the point of being able to afford it.). And since most of those educated, well -heeled people are from India (or South Asia, to be polite to our Paki brethren) – the ones who can’t afford to send their kids to America – have a few options. But the options are again predicated on our culture where professional education is valued much more than an arts education. So most of these people would presumably send their kids to India – to an Engineering school / Medical College / Business School.

MSU – your addressable market size is shrinking – and fast.

Now, you have the locals. First the sheikhs – would absolutely much rather send their kids to the US (as they have been for decades) – again, going back to the sovereign wealth funds – just go to their websites and check out their board of directors – most have a bunch of sheikhs who are cousins and went to the same handful of few schools in the US.

And then you have those losers who were not fortunate enough to be born into sheikhdom. Now, you are suddenly talking of a seriously shrunk addressable market MSU. And those who are wise enough to encourage their kids to go to school – have a number of options. e.g. American University in Cairo etc.

And obviously, attracting students from the sub-continent and the rest of the middle east (which would follow the same logic) didnt pan out as expected.

Crap – what were you thinking, dear professors of marketing @ Broad School of Business. 🙂

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