Interview: Sheikh Abdulla bin Ali Al Thani

What was the rationale behind the creation of HBKU, and what will the mandate of the organisation be in relation to Education City?

SHEIKH ABDULLA BIN ALI AL THANI: From the outset, Sheikha Moza bint Nasser, the chairperson of Qatar Foundation, believed Education City should become something greater than the sum of its parts. Since 1998, branches of a number of the world’s leading universities have been offering some of their most renowned degree programmes at Education City, principally for undergraduates. The recently established HBKU is an emerging research university, which is building upon a rich array of local and international partnerships to offer graduate degree programmes and conduct research tailored to the needs of Qatar and the region. HBKU’s location at Education City, alongside its partner universities, creates huge potential for fruitful collaboration.

How will HBKU work with international branch campuses located in Education City to further develop higher education programmes and degrees?

SHEIKH ABDULLA: HBKU supplements the opportunities that are already available at Education City. HBKU is drawing upon the diverse strengths of its partners to create advanced degree programmes, which will pave the way for research into areas that are very relevant to our national development, as well as prepare specialists to work in vital operational roles in those areas. This often involves a combination of traditional academic disciplines. The new programmes will culminate in the award of an HBKU degree. HBKU is already recruiting its own faculty, but collaboration with other institutions will remain central to our way of working. Incidentally, our partner universities are already combining their resources for the benefit of our students. For some years, students have been able to cross-register for courses at a university other than the one conferring their degree. HBKU is working to take these partnerships to a higher level.

In what ways can HBKU fill gaps in the current academic offerings in Qatar?

SHEIKH ABDULLA: It is not a matter of filling gaps, but rather of a more advanced stage of scholarship. HBKU will award master’s and PhD degrees, which are the gateway to specialised careers, including research. The ideas and innovations that emerge from the research will drive the new knowledge-based economy, which is so essential to replace our current hydrocarbons-based economy. Since 2011 HBKU’s Translation and Interpreting Institute has been training linguists to operate at a professional level in a number of languages, which is important due to Qatar’s growing role on the global stage. In 2013 University College London Qatar (UCL Qatar) launched a master’s in Library and Information Studies, which in 2014 will become a joint programme with HBKU. The skills of its graduates will be greatly needed by our new Qatar National Library, now under construction at Education City. At the same time, UCL Qatar also began to teach a diploma programme in academic research and methods, which will also become an HBKU programme to prepare graduates for an advanced, research-based course of study.

The new HBKU executive master’s in energy and resources brings the complementary perspectives of three partners to an area that is vital to Qatar and the region. It is designed to create an in-depth understanding of the role of energy in modern life, including its influence upon global politics, the balance between our energy needs and protecting our natural environment, and their capacity to drive international markets. The programme integrates the disciplines of geopolitics, public policy, technology, finance and management, and is offered in partnership with Georgetown University, Texas A&M University and HEC Paris. Energy will remain the lifeblood of our economy for many years and decision-makers need this kind of all-round awareness. Other programmes are being developed to answer a social/economic need. This requires us to focus on the interfaces and overlaps of traditional disciplines.