Education City: Academia Rises in Qatar
Qatar (pronounced cutter) is home to just over 2 million people, a sovereign Arab country found on the northeasterly coast of the Arabian Peninsula. It borders Saudi Arabia and is a nation of tremendous wealth, due to oil production. Its per capita income is the second-highest in the world and the country is at the forefront of a higher education initiative known simply as Education City.
Advancing Education in the Desert
Education City is located on approximately 5.4 square miles of land just outside of Doha, the capital city. It is an initiative of the Qatar Foundation for Education, Science and Community Development and is composed of six American universities, one British, one French and one Qatari university. It is also an educational facility that serves school-aged children through adults studying research.
The six American universities are: the Weill Cornell Medical College, Virginia Commonwealth University, Northwestern University, Georgetown University, Carnegie Mellon University and Texas A&M. The British University in Dubai, Hautes Etudes Commerciales Paris and the Qatar Faculty of Islamic Studies, are also involved.
With all of its oil wealth, Qatar appears to be putting its money to good use. In other words, its academic investment is not mere eye candy — they want to stamp out illiteracy as well as promote the best in university research.
Beyond Oil Wealth
In a June 2012 write up by BBC News, Sean Couglan noted that Qatar is looking past its present condition to a future that goes beyond its oil wealth. Indeed, Education City was developed to last beyond its oil, what eventually will run out. When the oil is gone, Qatar wants to have a strong, advanced economy in place.
By partnering with foreign universities, Qatar has been able to move fast in education. Likely, it would have taken many decades for the country to develop a world-class education system on its own. The country decided to seek out educational partnerships in a bid to accelerate the process. By all accounts its initiative is succeeding.
Educating the Masses
An important impetus in Education City is to avert future Arab Springs of discontented and aimless young people. In education and with innovation, the Qatar initiative stands to affect thousands of people within the country’s borders as well as abroad. Education City claims 85 different nationalities among its students, giving it the opportunity to reach many including the disaffected.
Sheikh Abdulla bin Ali AlThani, a member of Qatar’s ruling family and a former university professor, is the man behind Education City and other Qatari education initiatives. He understands that the region has great needs and that university independence is desperately needed.
Dr. Abdulla, who serves as president of the ruling university also understands that in his region independent thinking is often challenged. Said Abdulla, “There needs to be a culture of freedom of inquiry.” And it is inquiry that Education City intends to advance.
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