Qatar: Brand Qatar: Education
British Embassy Doha
Education is central to Qatar’s Vision 2030. Qatar’s own university and Education City’s foreign (mainly US) faculties offer a range of higher education opportunities. Challenges include whether teaching should be in Arabic or English, the extent to which general education equips school-leavers with the necessary skills for higher education or employment, and a shortage of school places for the ever-growing expat population. There are opportunities for UK institutions in general, higher and vocational education, and in research and development.
Education lies at the heart of Qatar’s National Vision 2030. The Qatari leadership wants to invest its massive hydrocarbon wealth to benefit future generations through building a knowledge economy and a strong sense of citizenship and moral values.
Since 2002, the Supreme Education Council (SEC) has held the lead for education policy and reform in Qatar. At around this time, the Qataris brought in Rand to conduct a review of education provision in Qatar. Their strategy Education for a new era led to a number of changes including the creation of independent schools, which are autonomous but follow a set curriculum, and the teaching of maths and science in English. Qatar’s strategy has had some success – the country has the lowest illiteracy rate in the Arab world at 4.5% and ranked fourth (out of 142 countries) on quality of education in the Global Competitiveness Report 2012-13. The Outstanding Schools initiative has also enabled international/independent schools to set up in Qatar under the auspices of the SEC (e.g. Sherborne) provided they take on a minimum number of Qatari students.
Education City is Qatar’s best-known education initiative, based within Qatar Foundation. Its early philosophy was to bring in world-leading faculties thereby importing excellence to develop indigenous research and educational capability. Education City is currently home to eight foreign university campuses – Texas A&M, Northwestern, Virginia Commonwealth, Carnegie Mellon, Weill Cornell Medical College, Georgetown, HEC Paris and – the most recent addition and only British university – UCL Qatar.
In 2011, Education City was renamed Hamad bin Khalifa University (HBK), in honour of the Emir, and draws together many of the branch campuses and other indigenous faculties operating on Education City including the Qatar Faculty for Islamic Studies and the new Translation Institute. The idea is that the different branch campuses should complement each other and the HBK University will start to create its own courses to fill in any remaining gaps, including veterinary science and law.
Qatar University, Qatar’s national and largest university established in 1977, is not part of Education City. It has around 10,000 students, around 70-80% of whom are female. This is thought to reflect a number of factors including the fact that fewer women take up overseas scholarship opportunities than men.
Attention on vocational and technical education is increasing. College of the North Atlantic Qatar (CNA-Q) has over 3,000 students and has tie-ins with Qatar Petroleum and the wider oil and gas sector. There is demand for vocational education in banking and finance and ICT.
Balancing the need to develop individuals capable of working in a global environment and preserving the indigenous language and culture. Qatar University recently reverted to Arabic as the language of instruction for most degrees. Many schools are also withdrawing English instruction.
Some employers perceive the need to develop employability and soft skills in school leavers. Foundation programmes aim to address this through language, numeracy and study skills
There is also a pressing need for more school places. As preparations for the 2022 World Cup and associated infrastructure development ramp up, Qatar expects an influx of foreign expertise and school places will be required to attract the right people.
Significant opportunities remain for UK institutions and business:
Elite institutions will still find opportunities within Education City and outside.
Qatar wants to become a regional research hub and will unveil its new research and development strategy next month, increasing its spending on R&D from 0.8% to 2.8% of GNI focusing on four key areas – ICT, Social Sciences, Biomedics and Energy. The Qatar National Research Fund offers generous funding and success rates are high for those who work with a Qatari partner and can demonstrate how this work contributes towards the Qatari national interest. The Qatar Science and Technology Park also offers potential for research collaborations e.g. Imperial College’s Robotics Centre.
Qatar University would be open to faculty/student exchange.
There is scope for corporate education, education consultancy services as the education sector is reformed, especially in general and technical/vocational services.
The UK remains a destination of choice for Qataris studying overseas. Around 50% of overseas scholarships are for study in the UK. UK Higher Education foundation programmes are popular, but funding is limited to seven providers.
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