Interview: Amir Berbic

To what extent does the integration of foreign universities in the higher education segment contribute to the development of students’ skills?

AMIR BERBIC: Investing in the higher education segment is fundamental for capacity building and societal development. Higher education institutions play a crucial role in nurturing the next generation, equipping them to lead the country forwards by advancing various industries. For example, by teaching disciplines like design and arts, graduates acquire transferable skills that enable them to participate in diverse sectors, relying on creative and critical abilities to contribute beyond their specific field. Ultimately, the growth of creative industries is poised to stimulate further economic diversification in Qatar.

In what ways does the incorporation of emerging technologies impact learning and collaboration within creative fields in higher education?

BERBIC: Technology is widespread across all academic disciplines. Consequently, the arts and creative industries have seen the integration of new media programmes. As the creative fields become more intertwined with technology, higher education institutions are embracing an inquiry-driven approach. Rather than merely utilising new technologies, there is a concerted effort to pose challenging questions about tools and digital environments. The integration of emerging technologies aligns seamlessly with the creative fields, given the expertise and interest among faculty and students. This trend also reflects a growing interest in the professional sphere, encompassing a diverse range of creative practices, including media, video, animation and game design.

How does academia in Qatar proactively engage with and influence various industries?

BERBIC: Collaboration between academia and the public and private sectors is crucial. Rather than solely responding to industry needs, institutions should proactively engage with and influence diverse industries, particularly in a dynamic market like Qatar. This proactive approach becomes essential as various sectors, from media companies to cultural institutions and government entities, seek to grow, evolve and communicate more effectively with the public.

Where do you identify opportunities to integrate entrepreneurship within design programmes to enhance commercialisation opportunities?

BERBIC: Entrepreneurship has become increasingly vital and we must ensure its integration into the design process. Our Boost Lab holds a key position within the framework of our Institute for Creative Research, concentrating on product design, innovation and commercialisation. Our lab produced the first design patent from VCU arts and facilitates collaboration with local incubators, aiming to stimulate commercialisation opportunities for designers. It establishes industry parameters and fosters collaboration with other institutions, particularly in areas outside of our expertise.

What measures can be taken to enhance faculty development and retention?

BERBIC: Retaining faculty is achieved by ensuring they have the resources for ongoing development. Higher education institutions in Qatar and the region are diligently working towards this goal. Faculty members are provided with resources for effective classroom performance and supported in their growth as scholars, artists and researchers through internal funding. Offering resources and support not only motivates optimal performance but also encourages faculty to stay. Despite Qatar being a small country, and recognising the difficulties of living away from home, academics are motivated by professional opportunities and advancements. These opportunities are enhanced through initiatives like Education City and government support for the development of the education sector.