Forging closer educational ties to ASEAN universities

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Dr. Mark Weichold, dean of Texas A&M University in Qatar

Texas A&M University, an educational institution headquartered in Texas, US, and a research-intensive flagship university with more than 50,000 students worldwide, was invited by Qatar Foundation in 2003 to establish a campus in Doha based on the strength of its petroleum engineering programme. Dr. Mark Weichold, the dean of the Qatar branch of Texas A&M, brings a wealth of academic and industry experience to his role in Qatar. Dr. Weichold attended the Inside Investor Forum Asia 2012 in Doha and gave Inside Investor an interview.

Q: What are your current collaborations with educational institutions in ASEAN?

A: Currently, we have collaborations with universities in Singapore, Malaysia and Hong Kong which include internships for students and student exchange programmes, as well as research collaborations.We have signed memorandums of understanding with the national universities there. We are looking for more partnerships in Malaysia with universities and higher learning institutions, and also in Vietnam.

Q: Private and third-party financing for universities has always been a sensitive issue and is no guarantee for success. What needs to be done to reach excellence in such a case?

A: We are co-financed by Qatar Foundation, and they are also providing third-party financing. Basically we act independently, but, however, we have an agreement  with them which of course includes certain expectations on student output and revenue. But we don’t consider this to be inconsistent with our academic goals and targets.

Q: Emerging countries are facing a certain problem with brain drain, i.e. newly graduated students going abroad to look for better opportunities. What can be done to keep them in the country?

A: Brain drain is happening in some countries, yes, and universities need to look at the motivation why it happens. What needs to be done is to provide graduates with jobs and opportunities inside the country. In Qatar, graduates have a great number of industry jobs to choose from, and we are not really experiencing a brain drain from here.

Q: What will the ASEAN Economic Community bring for the educational sector?

A: Certainly a lot of new opportunities. The AEC is lowering access barriers and allows the free flow of individuals, which is a great step forward for the educational sector in the region. There will also be more cultural exchange with students from many different countries on ASEAN campuses, and better language education. With our collaborations in the region, this will also have a positive impact on Texas A&M in Qatar.

Q: Where do you see the most important research niches for Texas A&M here in Qatar?

A: There are three areas that I believe have a great potential. The first is information and communication technology to improve and expand the ICT sector here. The second, unsurprisingly, is the petrochemical sector, where we see research niches in the field of natural gas, especially in the Gas-To-Liquids (GTL) process. GTL is a refinery process to convert natural gas or other gaseous hydrocarbons into longer-chain hydrocarbons such as gasoline or diesel fuel. There is also demand for research and development on plastic and plastic parts. The third is social science, where we see niches in research on cultural similarities in the Muslim world and the sectors of halal food and consumer products as well as Islamic finance.

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Reading Time: 3 minutes

Dr. Mark Weichold, dean of Texas A&M University in Qatar

Texas A&M University, an educational institution headquartered in Texas, US, and a research-intensive flagship university with more than 50,000 students worldwide, was invited by Qatar Foundation in 2003 to establish a campus in Doha based on the strength of its petroleum engineering programme. Dr. Mark Weichold, the dean of the Qatar branch of Texas A&M, brings a wealth of academic and industry experience to his role in Qatar. Dr. Weichold attended the Inside Investor Forum Asia 2012 in Doha and gave Inside Investor an interview.

Reading Time: 3 minutes

Dr. Mark Weichold, dean of Texas A&M University in Qatar

Texas A&M University, an educational institution headquartered in Texas, US, and a research-intensive flagship university with more than 50,000 students worldwide, was invited by Qatar Foundation in 2003 to establish a campus in Doha based on the strength of its petroleum engineering programme. Dr. Mark Weichold, the dean of the Qatar branch of Texas A&M, brings a wealth of academic and industry experience to his role in Qatar. Dr. Weichold attended the Inside Investor Forum Asia 2012 in Doha and gave Inside Investor an interview.

Q: What are your current collaborations with educational institutions in ASEAN?

A: Currently, we have collaborations with universities in Singapore, Malaysia and Hong Kong which include internships for students and student exchange programmes, as well as research collaborations.We have signed memorandums of understanding with the national universities there. We are looking for more partnerships in Malaysia with universities and higher learning institutions, and also in Vietnam.

Q: Private and third-party financing for universities has always been a sensitive issue and is no guarantee for success. What needs to be done to reach excellence in such a case?

A: We are co-financed by Qatar Foundation, and they are also providing third-party financing. Basically we act independently, but, however, we have an agreement  with them which of course includes certain expectations on student output and revenue. But we don’t consider this to be inconsistent with our academic goals and targets.

Q: Emerging countries are facing a certain problem with brain drain, i.e. newly graduated students going abroad to look for better opportunities. What can be done to keep them in the country?

A: Brain drain is happening in some countries, yes, and universities need to look at the motivation why it happens. What needs to be done is to provide graduates with jobs and opportunities inside the country. In Qatar, graduates have a great number of industry jobs to choose from, and we are not really experiencing a brain drain from here.

Q: What will the ASEAN Economic Community bring for the educational sector?

A: Certainly a lot of new opportunities. The AEC is lowering access barriers and allows the free flow of individuals, which is a great step forward for the educational sector in the region. There will also be more cultural exchange with students from many different countries on ASEAN campuses, and better language education. With our collaborations in the region, this will also have a positive impact on Texas A&M in Qatar.

Q: Where do you see the most important research niches for Texas A&M here in Qatar?

A: There are three areas that I believe have a great potential. The first is information and communication technology to improve and expand the ICT sector here. The second, unsurprisingly, is the petrochemical sector, where we see research niches in the field of natural gas, especially in the Gas-To-Liquids (GTL) process. GTL is a refinery process to convert natural gas or other gaseous hydrocarbons into longer-chain hydrocarbons such as gasoline or diesel fuel. There is also demand for research and development on plastic and plastic parts. The third is social science, where we see niches in research on cultural similarities in the Muslim world and the sectors of halal food and consumer products as well as Islamic finance.

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