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The world’s next knowledge hub

Sep 01, 2013

As part of plans to develop a knowledge-based economy, the Qatar Foundation for Education, Science and Community Development, established in 1995, developed Education City in the capital Doha, a project that has been home to state-of-theart education and research facilities, as well as eight branch campuses of some of the best international universities.

“Qatar Foundation was clearly looking for something to help kickstart the development of an intellectual base for developing a knowledge economy. One of the key components was bringing the top international institutions to Qatar,” explains Professor Gerd Nonneman, dean of Georgetown University School of Foreign Service in Qatar.

“They went for particular fields that they wanted represented and in each of these fields. They approached the university they thought best represented international excellence. So when it came to global and international affairs, they went to the School of Foreign Service at Georgetown,” he added.

Other universities in Education City include Weill Cornell Medical College, Texas A&M, and Northwestern University.

“The Qatar Foundation specifically wanted a school that would help develop media industries in their knowledge-based industries plan. Northwestern has a school of communications and journalism, and is also very strong in liberal arts,” says Dr. Everette E. Dennis, dean of Northwestern University in Qatar.

“So, what was developed here was a school of journalism and communications that is aimed at producing a talent pool for current and future media industries for the region.”

The universities in Education City have not only improved the skills of students and faculty, but have also contributed to the advancement of Qatar and the Middle East through research and consultation projects. The engagement has formed a strong framework to build a sustainable, talent-based economy.

Aside from working with the Qatar Society of Engineers to raise the professional standards in the country, Texas A&M has published more than 150 scientific and technical papers and obtained nearly twenty patent disclosures, one of which is due for commercialization.

Meanwhile, Northwestern University brought together members of its faculty and student body in Libya for two days to work with principals and industry experts and develop a framework for the country’s media system.

“We’ve had projects involving freedom of expression, including our Libya Project. We’ve established some credibility for media industries and education in this field and in a region where there has not been a robust media scene and where freedom of expression is not part of the tradition. It’s been very important just to establish the school, then get the kind of response we’ve had from the various local media industries, including newspapers, TV, magazines, and digital media and incubator programs. That’s very exciting,” said Dr. Dennis.

Alongside these top international institutions is the Qatar Faculty of Islamic Studies (QFIS), Qatar Foundation’s first homegrown institution and the country’s first postgraduate school, which aims to enhance research and dialogue on all issues surrounding and concerning Islam.

“In a number of ways, we are very unique. Some of our degrees are unique only to us, like our master in public policy in Islam. We are also the first strong master of science degree in Islamic finance. A number of leading institutions have followed our example. We’ve benefited from all our international collaborations.

We have scholars from all over the world,” explains Dean of Qatar Faculty of Islamic Studies Dr. Hatem El-Karanshawy.

Defying many expectations, QFIS has welcomed debate and discussion from varying perspectives to deepen mutual understanding and promote improvement and positive change.

“The degree of openness, forward thinking, and willingness to accept new ideas was essential to our foundation. As we are surrounded by leading world universities, we have an environment of collaboration and competition that encourages us to set and maintain top standards,” Dr. Hatem explained.

Through its various programs, QFIS has proven that its openness goes beyond lip service.

“People are enemies of the things they don’t know. We would like more exposure and exchange of faculty and perhaps of students. We started a program with a top school in South Korea, whereby it sent top law graduates here for two months for specially designed programs. We have a similar program for French magistrates. This kind of collaboration boosts our students’ exposure to the world, and we are exposed as well,” Dr. Hatem stressed.

Education City best embodies the Qatari 2030 vision, which brings together the best talent from the country, region, and around the world to formulate practical solutions to many of the problems around the globe.

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Qatar 2013 was prepared for and originally printed in Foreign Affairs magazine.

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