Trading oil for education

How do you plug the brain drain of students leaving your country to study in the United States?

You bring the US to them by creating a mega university with branch campuses of the top US institutions, offering the same curricula on the home campus.

You even set up a basketball team or two. All it takes is several billion dollars earned from your country’s oil revenues and voila!

You’ve got Weill Connell Medical College offering undergraduate medical degrees; Northwestern offering journalism and communications; Carnegie Mellon offering business and computer science programmes; Texas A&M (engineering) Virginia Commonwealth (fine arts) and Georgetown University School of Foreign Service.

This is a dream scene in Education City in Doha, Qatar, to which 80 journalists were recently whisked and given a quick tour of the stunningly beautiful, sprawling campuses that resemble the headquarters of multinational companies.

The project is the flagship of the Qatar Foundation for Education, Science and Community Development, which was founded by Sheik Hamad Bin Khalifa al-Thani, emir of the State of Qatar. It aims to develop the potential of people through a network of centres and partnerships with elite institutions devoted to progressive education, research and community welfare.

Education City provides the highest quality of education from early childhood education to postgraduate study. It covers 14-million square metres and aims to be the centre of educational excellence in the Middle East.

About 2 500 students are based at the campus and about 50% are from outside Qatar. Although it was a struggle to find the students as numbers are low and so are lecturer-student ratios, this site could possibly be the only place of higher education in the world where a parking space is not a problem and bunking classes is a headache as you will be missed by your lecturer.

Furthermore, although it is plush, it lacks the atmosphere of a buzzing university. The foundation, meanwhile, is in negotiations with other international universities, cherry-picking the best faculties and opening branch campuses in Qatar.

For Dr Abdulla bin Ali al-Thani, the foundation’s vice-president for education, ‘the emir is leading transformation into a knowledge-based society by using gas reserves to fund and equip people for the 21st century. ‘In this vein Education City is being used to develop the skills and creativity of people.

For the first time we will be able to create new knowledge, apply it and commercialise it. We are creating a culture of innovation and enterprise and this will be the foundation of the new economy.” He said this programme of transformation through education and research is an ambitious one, but the aim is to preserve the Middle East Arab culture.

The Qatar Foundation is meanwhile attempting to enter the international education arena with the announcement that it will host a World Innovation Summit for Education (Wise) in September, which will address challenges such as access to education, as well as the use of technology in the delivery of education.

The theme is global education: working together for sustainable achievement. According to Dr Ahmad Hasnah, the foundation’s associate vice-president of higher education, the participants in the summit will be able to showcase best practices and innovations in dealing with education- related problems.

The summit’s call for innovative projects is open to any public and private participants in the education field and must be submitted from May 1 to July 1 through the website: www.wise-qatar.

Subscribe to the M&G

These are unprecedented times, and the role of media to tell and record the story of South Africa as it develops is more important than ever.

The Mail & Guardian is a proud news publisher with roots stretching back 35 years, and we’ve survived right from day one thanks to the support of readers who value fiercely independent journalism that is beholden to no-one. To help us continue for another 35 future years with the same proud values, please consider taking out a subscription.

Related stories

The darker side of Indians

There is no light side to racial prejudice.

Motshekga acts on exam leaks

Basic Education Minister Angie Motshekga has done the right thing by stepping into the matric exam mess in Mpumalanga

‘Outdated’ technical courses to return

The department of higher education and training is reintroducing the “outdated Nated” courses.

Matric boss quits

With the split in the education ministry, matric exams head Penny Vinjevold has quit to take up the position of superintendent- general.

Reign of vice

Until recently, Ndlovu was South Africa's highest-paid vice-chancellor, earning a R3,7-million package in 2007.

African universities’ united response to climate change

Mesa has drawn on a community of scholars, researchers, teachers, students, government officials in higher education, private sector and civil society

Subscribers only

FNB dragged into bribery claims

Allegations of bribery against the bank’s chief executive, Jacques Celliers, thrown up in a separate court case

Dozens of birds and bats perish in extreme heat in...

In a single day, temperatures in northern KwaZulu-Natal climbed to a lethal 45°C, causing a mass die-off of birds and bats

More top stories

Blast rocks Durban’s Engen refinery

Residents are being evacuated as firefighters battle to control the blaze

ConCourt asked to rule that Zuma must testify for 10...

It is Zondo's legal end game and will leave the former president, his supporters and those implicated in state capture to increasingly play fast and loose at imputing political motive to the commission

Carlos on Oozymandias’ goodbye grift

"Look on my works ye Mighty, and gimme 50 bucks!"

This is how the SIU catches crooks

Athandiwe Saba talked to the Special Investigating Unit’s Andy Mothibi about its caseload, including 1 000 Covid contracts

press releases

Loading latest Press Releases…