Qatar extends research funding lifeline for outsiders

British academics are second most successful in securing grants from the Qatar National Research Fund’s collaborative programmes

February 19, 2015

Qatar will continue to offer research funding to academics around the world, even as its higher education sector moves away from reliance on overseas institutions.

Apart from their US counterparts, British academics have been the most successful in securing grants from the Qatar National Research Fund’s collaborative programmes, participating in projects that have won $83 million (£54 million) since 2006.

The bulk has been allocated under QNRF’s National Priorities Research Programme, which offers awards with an average value of $850,000, up to 35 per cent of which may be spent outside Qatar. The rest goes to a collaborating Qatari-based institution, which means that outside academics may still benefit.

Abdul Sattar Al-Taie, executive director of QNRF, said the collaborative model had been successful in helping to build Qatar’s research culture and in attracting researchers.

“It’s not going to be stopped,” Dr Sattar said. “We have built human capacity, and the model of collaboration will carry on because we have discovered this is a very good platform for improving the quality of research and has put Qatar in the lead in the region.”

In seven rounds of NPRP funding, 58 UK universities have won support for 95 collaborative projects. Dr Sattar said a future option may be joint funding of projects with UK-based research councils.

His comments are significant because the Qatar Foundation, which has brought branch campuses of international universities to the country, has signalled that it wants to use a more independent model as it looks to expand postgraduate provision.

Maryah Al-Dafa, the organisation’s project director, said that branch campuses had “served us well” in educating Qatar’s undergraduates, but that the organisation did not want to “duplicate” this for postgraduates. With the new postgraduate Hamad bin Khalifa University, the emphasis will instead be on partnership arrangements, collaborative research and faculty exchange.

Dr Sattar and Ms Al-Dafa were speaking at the QF-UK Road Ahead Forum, held in London last month.

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