Bangor Banks on Investment as Interest Grows in Islamic Finance

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Byline: Matt Withers

WITH the worldwide banking system at its lowest ebb for 80 years, it would hardly seem the best time to be looking for a career in global finance.

But one area of banking has weathered the economic storms better than most - and one Welsh university has grasped it and entered the world of Islamic finance.

Last September Bangor University launched its Islamic finance MA and MSc and is already considering introducing an MBA in the subject, reflecting the fact that it has become one of the fastest-growing sectors of the global banking industry, expanding by between 15% and 20% a year.

Assets held by institutions adhering to Islamic finance principles now amount to nearly $1 trillion.

New courses and postgraduate qualifications in Islamic finance are now springing up throughout the UK and elsewhere in Europe.

As Philip Molyneux, head of Bangor University's business school, said, there was an increasing demand from international students, particularly from Islamic countries, to study it as an alternative to traditional banking and finance courses.

"If you look at most universities, the schools that attract most international students tend to be the business schools, and if you look at the business schools where the international students tend to study, they tend to be the international financial programmes, particularly the Masters in banking and finance," he said.

"We were one of the first to offer banking and finance, but now if you look a lot of places offer banking and finance. They are big recruiters for international students.

"This is a further extension of that. I wouldn't say any university is especially cashing in as there aren't many places doing it."

Last year, out of 120 people who did a finance-related Masters at Bangor University, 20 did Islamic banking and finance, said Prof Molyneux.

"You get a broader mix of people on the programme," he said. "The backgrounds are a bit more varied. On a traditional banking or finance Masters the majority of people have come straight off a first degree, whereas with Islamic banking we couldn't have predicted that, on our first course, only a third of the students were straight off a first degree. A lot previously worked in Islamic banking and actually know more about it than the academics because they've worked in it for seven years. They've actually got a lot of banking experience but just need an academic qualification."

The course has attracted students from countries including Saudi Arabia, Sudan and Pakistan. "We also have some which we never, ever predicted - people with a quite strong religious background. …