- Tuesday, June 4, 2019

It’s that time of year again. The time of year when young faces proudly wearing mortar board caps and flowing gowns celebrate their graduation from whatever school best served their scholastic interest. Some studied to be physicians at Weill Cornell Medicine. Some dream of a future in engineering after completing their course work at Texas A & M. Perhaps it was the communication program at Northwestern that captured their effort. Some students look forward to a career in public policy after their training at Georgetown University. Proud parents and siblings smile and cheer with pride.

These are not however, students on American campuses. Each of the graduates mentioned above have completed their studies at Education City in Doha, Qatar.

The Qatar Foundation holds an annual convocation ceremony for graduates from the top-notch educational programs based at Education City, including Hamad Bin Khalifa University, Texas A&M University at Qatar, Northwestern University in Qatar, Virginia Commonwealth University School of the Arts in Qatar, Weill Cornell Medicine - Qatar, Carnegie Mellon University in Qatar, Georgetown University in Qatar, UCL Qatar and HEC Paris in Qatar. The 2019 Convocation ceremony celebrating their success saw a total of 787 students graduates.

Among those graduates are 378 Qataris and 409 non-Qataris. 484 graduates were women and 303 were men. A total of 70 nationalities were represented, showing the opportunity for everyone to thrive in this all-inclusive environment of educational excellence.

More than 20 years ago the idea of Education City was conceived to create a place of opportunities for all. Today, the thriving campus is home to 9 universities, 11 schools, and a student body where women represent the majority. In fact, female students in Qatar are far likelier to enroll in traditionally male dominated STEM fields than their counterparts in the West.

This is no accident.

Education City is the flagship project of Qatar Foundation. It has pushed for a movement of gender equality by providing educational opportunities for promising young women and men from preschool all the way to postgraduate studies.

The introduction of Education City has not just spurred new creative industries in Qatar, it has challenged societal expectations of the kinds of careers in which women can thrive. The extraordinary statistics of female enrollment in the field of engineering in Qatar are just one example worth exploring.

At Texas A&M University at Qatar, 70 percent of female undergraduate students are Qatari, while women account for 45.7 percent of the total student body. The latter figure is more than twice the US national average of women in engineering (20.9 percent) and that of female enrollment in engineering at Texas A&M’s main campus (21.9 percent).

“This a young country and it is clear that there is a push to encourage indigenous engineers, both male and female,” stated Texas A&M at Qatar educator Dr Bilal Mansoor. “Those of us who have been here for a long time, have seen the investment in Education City and the changes it has brought to the country.” She feels that Qatar presents a unique model of female empowerment.

“These levels of opportunity have meant that female students don’t have to leave their family behind and study overseas if they want to pursue their chosen field.”

When Northwestern University and Georgetown University first opened their branch campuses in Qatar, they focused on offering degrees from their most renowned schools: the Medill School of Journalism and the Walsh School of Foreign Service, respectively. In the US, these schools are located hundreds of miles away, but in Education City, they are only a few feet apart and offer joint programs.

Shakeeb Asrar was in his second year at Northwestern University in Qatar (NU-Q) when he developed an interest in politics and chose to take classes from the neighboring Georgetown University in Qatar (GU-Q). Upon his graduation in 2017, Asrar earned a degree in Journalism from Northwestern with a minor in Media and Politics in collaboration with Georgetown’s Walsh School of Foreign Service.

“I wanted to take classes in government structures, policy-making, or diplomacy — factors that greatly impact media these days,” Asrar said. “For me to take such classes at Georgetown while being a Northwestern student was a perfect blend of the two worlds.”

This collaborative approach is characteristic of Education City, a 12 square kilometer campus that houses branch campuses of six top-ranked American colleges, two European institutes, and one homegrown research university. Today, the nine universities in Education City that cater to more than 3,000 students are located within walking distance of one another. Housed in built-for-purpose campuses, the university programs range from undergraduate offerings in media, international affairs, business and computer science, to doctorates in medicine, and post-graduate programs in engineering and arts. All programs carry the same academic rigor and repute of those at their main campuses.

While cross-registration of classes is not a feature limited only to Education City — several universities such as Harvard and MIT offer similar opportunities — the close proximity of these institutions in Qatar allows students from both universities to interact more closely and helps academic advisors to meet regularly to ensure alignment of programs.

According to Scott Curtis, associate professor and director of the Communication Program at NU-Q, “being in a set-up like Education City opened up opportunities for us to work with other universities, and to build collaborative programs which are beneficial to our students.

“In terms of the partnership with GU-Q, we already had the green light from our home university [in Evanston],” Curtis explained. “They expect us to be innovative and entrepreneurial in our teaching methods, and recognized that NU-Q has more similarities with GU-Q than with many of the other EC campuses. Both universities share a social scientific and humanistic approach, and a similar outlook.”

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