Law and Management scholar makes history

Dr Ishaq Bhatti

Dr Ishaq Bhatti

Recent ALTC Citation winner Associate Professor Ishaq Bhatti, from La Trobe University, has made history by developing Australia's first ever Islamic banking and finance course designed according to Shariah law.

Associate Professor Bhatti was inspired to research the area after noticing the strength maintained by the Dow Jones Islamic Index during the global financial crisis. He discovered that Islamic Banking and Finance (IBF) had also performed well during the Asian and Turkish financial crises respectively. Additionally, IBF is the fastest growing area in the financial sector and there is already a lack of qualified personnel to cater for the ever expanding industry.

With economists estimating a 15 to 20 per cent growth in Islamic finance, Associate Professor Bhatti predicts that between 30 and 50,000 experts will be needed for the industry. 'This anticipated high demand of experts inspired me to start the IF and banking professional course which can enhance finance graduate students' knowledge in this specialised area,' he said.

Associate Professor Bhatti also noted that Islamic finance is a great opportunity to build bridges between multiple cultures and faiths in various communities because of the post- GFC focus on a more ethical approach to financial management.

'I believe Islamic banking can help all of us to prosper together universally as one community in a global village in the twenty first century,' he said. 'My role is to help prepare students to take leadership roles in this emerging area.'

As one of three ALTC Citation winners from La Trobe, Associate Professor Bhatti is very pleased at the response to the new course. 'It is very rewarding that my 25 years of hard work and teaching have been recognised with a Citation,' he said. 'The recognition is very important to me, for the course and for my students because it shows that the new ideas and hard work can lead to success.'

He attributes much credit to his colleagues at La Trobe, which he said is one of the most culturally diverse universities in Australia.

The course has also attracted attention from other universities, the government, the financial sector and the media, as it is the only course of its kind in Australia and New Zealand. There are currently eight PhD candidates, and 29 masters students and Associate Professor Bhatti said that many students have already received scholarships, internships and job offers at prestigious financial institutions. 'This is an indication that the demand for Islamic banking and finance is very strong, both locally and internationally,' he said.

When asked why he is passionate about his work, Associate Professor Bhatti commented that teachers can inspire student, push them to believe in themselves and be a positive force for good.

'I am very pleased that our program is bringing people together and giving them an opportunity to think outside the box about real economic problems that are facing us all,' he said.

The course is in its second year of enrolments, with the first batch of students expected to graduate at the end of 2010.