Qatar's branch campuses create first joint programme

Doha offshoots are also integrating courses with goal of providing ‘unique’ value to students

October 17, 2017
Qatar campus

Three US branch campuses based in Qatar have created Education City’s first joint university programme in a move that signals a new “collaborative” approach for the higher education hub.

Virginia Commonwealth University School of the Arts in Qatar, Texas A&M University at Qatar and Weill Cornell Medicine – Qatar have co-designed a new course that is set to launch in January and would be open to any Education City student in their junior year.

Omran Hamad Al-Kuwari, executive director of the Qatar Foundation, the principal funder of the Education City site that houses the campuses, said that the course has a working title of “happy society” and will “investigate important themes of happiness and wellness from the design, medical and technological lens”. It will be taught by academics at the three institutions.

In an interview with Times Higher Education, Mr Al-Kuwari cited the new joint programme, which will contribute credits to students’ degrees, as just one example of the way in which Education City is improving the integration between the hub’s branch campuses.

Georgetown University in Qatar and Northwestern University in Qatar have also joined forces to allow students to study a major subject at one institution and a minor at the other.

Meanwhile, changes to class timetables and locations mean that students at any of the six undergraduate campuses can now cross-register and take courses for credit at other institutions in the hub.

Mr Al-Kuwari said that the collaborative approach would create a “very unique, innovative environment” for students.

“You’re coming, you’re attending one university, but you have access to six, which is rare,” he said.

“At some universities, even cross-registering between colleges is difficult. We think this is a very nice added value.”

He hopes that the joint major-minor degrees will provide “a good model” that can be “scaled up even further”, he added.

Visits to the outposts’ main campuses have also inspired the Qatar Foundation to explore new ways of enhancing the student experience, he said.

For example, Virginia Commonwealth University School of the Arts’ Richmond campus in the US has a Center for the Creative Economy, which brings students together with the private sector.

“We’re looking at that model to see if we can localise it for our students,” said Mr Al-Kuwari.

Although each campus works individually to attract students and faculty, Mr Al-Kuwari added that the foundation was looking to introduce its own marketing strategy to publicise Education City as a “whole value proposition”.

But he suggested that there were no plans to expand the number of campuses.

“Each programme that has come has come for a reason,” he said. “For now, we’re very happy with the partners we have.”

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