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UCL joins Education City in Qatar 29, October 2010

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University College London, one of the UK’s best Universities, is to open a campus in Qatar’s Education City. They will offer Masters degrees in archaeology, museum studies and conservation. The agreement was signed on the recent high-level visit of Qatar’s Emir and his most prominent wife, Sheikha Moza, to the UK.

These ventures, while clearly potentially profitable, are also somewhat dangerous. Certainly, these top-tier Western Universities will be remunerated handsomely for going to Education City and will have a beautiful campus built for them. However, their reputation is on the line. As they are offering the same degrees as one can obtain in the UK (or the US) at the home institution, if these are not taught well or if they cannot attract suitable students, then home students are likely to (rightly) complain that the ‘value’ of their degree is going down and their precious reputation could be adversely affected. Weill Cornell in Doha, for example, had problems with students back in the States complaining along these lines.

Similarly, one must never forget the cautionary tale that was the rash of US Universities opening in Japan in the 1980s amid their boom. Many miscalculated badly and left with millions of dollars of debt. [Indeed, one such University is currently ensconced in Education City now. Inshallah, they’ve learned from their earlier mistakes…]

It is not so much importing the lecturers and professors that is the problem as attracting suitable students. Standards dictate that students at the home institution and in Doha pass the same entrance requirements. Yet as the student body is being drawn from such vastly different cultures/areas, even if students can pass the same entrance exams, classes are different. Several Professors at some of the Education City institutions told me that it is simply impossible for them to teach the same curriculum as back in the States. Typically the students, while all certainly very intelligent, simply do not have the same breadth of experiences or knowledge of the topics at hand. Still, it must be recognised that ‘different’ is not necessarily ‘worse’.

Lastly, Western Universities leave themselves open to criticism from ‘home’ that they are treating Education like a commodity. By opening up in ‘non-democratic Qatar’ they are offering – at the harshest interpretation – some kind of intellectual veneer of credibility at the expense of proselytizing the true ‘Socratic method’. Incidentally, I wholly don’t agree with this kind of almost ad hominem attack, as launched, for example, by the President of the Middle Eastern Studies Association in her Presidential address in 2009.

One last complicating factor for UCL is that they are not simply engaged in a bilateral arrangement with Education City but a trilateral one with the Qatar Museum’s Authority as well. This extra layer of sleepy, Qatari bureaucracy could exponentially increase their difficulties in getting things done. I wish them well, hope for their success but don’t envy their task.

Executive MBA to begin in Doha, Qatar 6, July 2010

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Paris’ celebrated business school, HEC, is to open a campus in Doha, Qatar. They plan to teach at least an MBA as well as an executive MBA.

They will not open their campus in Qatar’s Education City or indeed be directly under their aegis. They are the first business school to open under Qatar Foundation’s Management, Education and Research Centre (QF-Merc) and will be situated, I believe, in or near Doha’s downtown, nearer their prospective clientele.

QF-Merc hopes to attract other business schools too.

The FT article points out the HEC Paris is not the first business school to open in the region. London Business School and City University’s Cass school have programmes in Dubai and INSTEAD is based in Abu Dhabi.

At the moment there is a lack of post-graduate study in Doha. Given the demand and the relative costs of companies being forced to send their employees to Europe for courses or degrees for their continued development, HEC Paris has, I believe, essentially a license to print money in Doha. The first institution to offer Masters degrees related to the oil and gas industry will similarly make a fortune too.

HEC joins Education City, Doha 29, January 2010

Posted by thegulfblog.com in Qatar, The Emirates.
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HEC Paris, one of the world’s top business schools, is joining various illustrious American institutions in Qatar’s Education City. It will offer MBAs as well as what The National describes as “coursework in executive education and research programmes.” The University is sensibly aiming at the part-time market so that business executives in Doha can study in the evenings. One of the problems of being based in Qatar is that professionals wanting professional development have to go back to Europe or America for such courses.

It can surely only be a matter of time before Masters level qualifications aimed at the oil and gas sector are inaugurated at one of Education City’s American institutions.

More generally, there are rumors afoot that some of the institutions in Education City are [choose your adjective] scared/terrified/concerned/worried about NYU in Abu Dhabi. Specifically, some are perturbed that this august institution with a truly bottomless budget and – crucially – no mandatory limit of the percentage of nationals to attend the University (i.e. a pure meritocracy), will poach staff and students from Education City. At the absolute least, it will provide the stiffest of competition.

US Universities in Dubai struggling 28, December 2009

Posted by thegulfblog.com in Qatar, The Emirates.
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The NYT has an interesting if unsurprising article discussing the seemingly grim future of US educational institutions in Dubai. I can’t help but note that this article comes around the same time as the Financial Times runs an article entitled ‘Qatar embraces the extravagant’, discussing (amongst other things) Qatar’s opulent housing-island development The Pearl. That, and the relatively rude health of Qatar’s education city with talk of expansion, suggests that the chasm between Qatar and Dubai appears to be growing.

Hat tip on Dubai’s University challenges: Abstract JK

Education City’s graduation arena 3, December 2009

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This is, theoretically, the place where all Education City graduates will gather for their graduation ceremony. I’m sure that this is taken fairly directly from some film or other…the 5th element?

Thanks to this blog for the picture.