Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Reforming Qatar’s University System

By Armand Emamdjomeh

An effective higher education system is inevitably a priority for any country wishing to develop a knowledge-based economy. Developing an elite research institution is even more of a priority for Qatar University, considering that it is the only national research university, according to Dr. Abdel Aziz El Bayoumi, professor and advisor to the president of Qatar University.

While the country has used its vast oil wealth to develop “Education City,” which contains world-class educational institutions such as Georgetown and Northwestern Universities, the country also has ambitious plans for the country’s sole national university.

In a classroom on QU’s male campus, Dr. El Bayoumi described the reforms that Qatar hopes will bring the university to equal status with the Western institutions in Education City.

Dr. El Bayoumi described the obstacles faced by the university, which include the lack of comprehensive academic oversight, an overly centralized administration and weak academic and administrative mechanisms.

Addressing these issues will include integration of current programs into a central College of Arts and Sciences, establishing a new college of Law, accreditation, emphasizing the recruitment of a top-notch faculty and increased oversight and accountability of university structures.

The university has also begun to implement entry and acceptance standards for incoming students, requiring a minimum score on high school exit exams and a 500 on the Test of English as a Foreign Language. Tuition is free for Qatari students, who comprise about 80 percent of the 8,000-member student body, and students are also eligible for additional financial aid based on test scores.

Middle East Journalism Boot Camp student Steve Furay asked about environmental research initiatives at the university, to which Dr. El Bayoumi pointed out the Environmental Studies Center, which works with corporations wishing to develop new projects in the country.

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