Qatar under new management, but business as usual for branches

Western universities don’t expect new emir to shake up status quo

July 11, 2013

Western universities based in Qatar are not expecting any major shake-ups under the country’s new emir, Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani, despite what is said to be his preference for Arabic- rather than English-language instruction at university level.

Tamim was handed power over the gas-rich Gulf state on 25 June by his 61-year-old father, Hamad bin Khalifa Al Thani.

Qatar has persuaded six US universities and one each from the UK and France to set up branch campuses on a site near Doha.

It is hoped that Hamad Bin Khalifa University, which was known as Education City before being renamed after the former emir last year, will help wean the state off its dependence on gas by educating young Qataris and building a knowledge economy.

The new emir, 33, is the son of Sheikha Mozah bint Nasser Al Missned, “who was the driving force behind Education City”, explained Christopher Davidson, reader in Middle East politics at Durham University, so he expected “little change” in the levels of support for the project.

An academic working with the Qataris, who wished to remain anonymous, told Times Higher Education that the branch campuses were expecting business as usual because Tamim had already been involved in much of the decision-making regarding Hamad Bin Khalifa University.

Tamim would not interfere in the university, the academic argued, and Sheikha Mozah would continue to lead the project.

The emir is thought to be committed to funding serious research in the sciences in Qatar, although he may scale back spending on humanities and social sciences research, the scholar added.

However, Tamim is believed to be more socially conservative than his father and is “known for his seriousness, religiousness and interest in protecting language and culture”, Dr Davidson said.

He added that the emir is believed to have been behind a government order last year that forced Qatar University to switch its language of instruction in some courses from English to Arabic.

david.matthews@tsleducation.com

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