Qatar University is the largest and most prominent institution for higher education in Qatar. Inside Investor sat down with the institution’s president, Sheikha Abdulla Al Misnad, to talk about how the oldest and largest university in Qatar plans to work towards the country’s 2030 goals.
Q: Where are the majority of students at Qatar University from and how do you attract them?
A: The majority of students at Qatar University are from Qatar and are Qatari nationals or children of expats. In fact, 65 per cent are Qatari nationals and about 30 to 35 per cent are children of expats. In addition, there are about 5 per cent of students who come from abroad, who are mainly from Gulf countries, such as Bahrain, or from MENA countries, such as Libya, because Qatar offers several scholarships. There are also students from many Islamic African countries. If students come from Europe, the studies they choose are mainly focused around the Arabic language.
Q: Can you identify any knowledge gaps in the Qatari economy that you are aiming to fill?
A: At the moment the gap is mostly in technical positions, such as engineering or medical/health services, and also in the education sector. This is what the labour market currently demands in terms of manpower. Our challenge is to help a young person living in a comfortable society with many job opportunities to choose a path that is both personally fulfilling and contributes to the development of society.
Q: With Qatar hosting the forthcoming FIFA World Cup in 2022, there will be a huge demand for educated graduates, particularly in the construction and financial fields. How do you envision meeting these needs?
A: Qatar has a very small national population, but at the same time it is a very ambitious country. That said, to host something of this scale, we will need to depend on a large number of people from abroad. We have to just make sure that our national population is leading the development process.
Q: This year QU launched its marine research programme. What else is in the pipeline?
A: Qatar University is the largest and oldest university in the country. Over 60 per cent of all bachelor degree holders in the country graduate from QU. We therefore focus heavily on research and graduate studies as well. Also, there is a large fund for expanding research in Qatar now, and we take advantage of that. In terms of research, we can work with any partner to build on educational initiatives, such as oil and gas research, or banking, for example.
Q: Are there any particular collaborations between Qatar University and the business community?
A: The strongest business relationship is with the oil and gas sector in the country. Many projects and activities we are involved in are sponsored by or conducted in conjunction with oil and gas companies, and relevant partners from industry also have a chance to contribute to our programs by serving on advisory boards. When considering collaborations, we of course consider all to fall in sync with the visions of the country’s 2030 plan.
A: We have relations with institutions in the US and the UK that have traditionally played leading roles in certain academic fields. However, we would like to develop more relations with Southeast Asia, considering the historical links and the great strides being made there in academia and industry. We have some links to the region, including a partnership with an Asian university in road safety as well as previous links with institutions from South Korea and Japan, but, we look forward to building on them more strongly in the future.
Q: Is there are reason for that?
A: I think that there was simply a natural shift to work with researchers from Europe and the US, because their institutions are well established in many fields. However, we want to build upon Asian connections – but we are not sure how yet. I think the fact that many Asian universities are themselves in a growth stage and therefore unwilling to export highly needed human resources and expertise has something to do with this. But in the US, it is easier to find retired scholars who are willing to teach abroad for a year or two.
Q: One last question: Where do you see Qatar University in five years?
A: We hope to build a center of excellence, especially with a focus on oil and gas. We are too small to have a focus on everything, so this is our advantage.