Oil state opts for Canadian partner

July 13, 2001

Qatar has taken another step in its attempt to become the Middle Eastern hub for higher education.

The small Gulf state has announced a partnership with Canada to establish its first college of technology.

Newfoundland's College of the North Atlantic will provide Qatar with personnel, credentials and programmes for at least ten years in a deal worth C$500 million (£235 million).

It is Qatar's second major higher education announcement this year. In April, it signed an agreement with Cornell University in the US to establish a Middle Eastern branch of its medical school. Both projects are part of a proposed "education city" that will include a world-class training facility for management studies, for which Qatar is in talks with a US business school.

The affluent state of 745,000 hopes its internationally accredited institutions, run at arm's length from the emirate, will attract students from across the region.

Qatar's partner, a college from a cold, poor province, has a less obvious appeal for an oil-rich desert country. "North Atlantic has been tested through hard times," said Jim Fox of the Canadian Bureau for International Education, which initiated the deal. The college played a key role in reskilling Newfoundlanders for the oil industry when the province's fisheries collapsed in the 1990s.

Now Qatar wants to see its own workforce, which still looks to the shrinking public sector for secure employment, diversified.

The relatively progressive Islamic country also wants to attract more people into entrepreneurial positions.

In a ceremony in the capital city of Doha, the emir, Sheikh Hamad bin Khalifa Al-Thani, said Qatar had selected Canada as a partner because of "its high-quality college system and its capacity to work directly with and in industry for economic development".

The as-yet-unnamed college expects to have 3,000 students by 2012.

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