“We are talking to a number of interested parties on the issue of funding,” said Professor Michael West, Executive Dean at Aston Business School, one of the largest and most successful business schools in Europe.
The disclosure follows the decision by Locate in Birmingham, the city council’s inward investment arm, to promote the city’s strength as a centre for professional and financial services, and its emergence as a potential location for Islamic Finance, when it takes part in the World Islamic Banking conference in Bahrain on November 23-25.
Professor West said: “The Chair will be headed by a senior financial academic, expert in Islamic Finance, and we want to establish it as soon as possible. But, ultimately, it depends upon securing the necessary finance.”
He added: “The role of Islamic Finance is becoming increasingly important, especially in view of current economic conditions. In the Midlands it is also relevant because of the high percentage of Muslims within the student population and the population of the region as a whole.”
Research and teaching of Islamic Finance would form part of the business school’s Masters and under-graduate programme, said Professor West.
Aston Business School’s decision to establish a Chair in Islamic Finance was welcomed by Mike Loftus, who heads the Locate in Birmingham operation. Mr Loftus, who will attend the Bahrain conference together with Birmingham-headquartered Islamic Bank of Britain and Aston Science Park-based consultancy Islamic Finance, Advisory & Assurance Services, said: “Such a centre of research and teaching will further complete the embellishment of the city’s offering as a leading provider of financial and professional services.”
He added that Birmingham and the West Midlands stood to benefit from “huge opportunities” that were opening up with the expansion of the Islamic Finance industry, which was set to grow by an estimated 15 percent over the next few years.
Mohammad Nazir, chairman of the West Midlands Minority Ethnic Business Form, who is lead adviser on Islamic Finance for the West Midlands Business Council, said: “The sector is developing at a rapid rate in the UK and Birmingham’s role will become increasingly important, especially as we work more closely with London, which is the pre-eminent centre for Islamic Finance.”
Last year, Birmingham and the City of London Corporation agreed to work alongside each other to further develop the Islamic Finance products market in the UK. Birmingham believes that the growth of the sector will create many dozens of new jobs in the city in “back office” functions such as accounting, auditing, legal work and administration.