The creation of a knowledge-based economy in Qatar is considered essential to the country's future prosperity. According to analysts, human capital and improved education are the driving forces changing the face of global business and the country is determined to not be left behind.
Through the establishment of higher educational institutions and the creation of forward-thinking organisations, the country is building a strong foundation in knowledge and education that will benefit its economy.
In 1995, the Qatar Foundation for Education, Science and Community Development (QF) was created as a non-profit organisation to develop the education sector. The primary outcome of this initiative was Education City (EC), which is home to five top-tier universities that offer degrees in several fields, including engineering, computer sciences and information systems, fine arts, medicine and foreign service. As part of the foundation's efforts to add new programmes, it was announced last week that Northwestern University is establishing a campus in the EC. The school will provide undergraduate studies in communications and journalism.
Another development that falls within the EC is the expansion of the Qatar Science & Technology Park (QSTP), which, with its new facilities, is set to be a centre for research and innovation. The aim is to encourage diversification, entrepreneurship and development in the field of technology.
Eulian Roberts, managing director of the QSTP, told OBG, "There is a real drive to see innovation and technological development actually occurring from within Qatar and not just a utilisation of [technology that is] created elsewhere; this is the motivation behind QSTP. Access to key research institutions is integral to technological innovation and development, so being within EC is enabling us to provide unprecedented access in this regard."
QSTP's complex is set to become operational in mid-2008, which will offer 45,000 square metres of office and laboratory space. QSTP has already received investment commitments exceeding $220m from companies such as ExxonMobil, Shell, Total, EADS, GE and Microsoft.
In addition QSTP is partnering with universities within EC. Carnegie Mellon University will now offer an Executive Entrepreneurship Certificate Programme (EECP) in Qatar. Chuck Thorpe, dean of Carnegie Mellon's Qatar campus, told OBG, "The EECP and co-operation with QSTP is highly important in the continued growth of Qatar's knowledge economy. [...] They are seen as milestones in bringing Qatar to the forefront of innovation and development through education in the whole of the GCC."
There have also been a number of higher education developments outside the borders of Education City and the scope of the QF. Other institutions have been brought in separately by business leaders and the government in direct response to gaps being identified.
When it became clear that there was a real need for education in hospitality and tourism management, officials formed a partnership with one of the most prominent universities in the field - CHN University of the Netherlands. In 2001 CHN began operations with the support of Sheikh Faisal Bin Qassim Al Thani of Al Faisal Holding Company, who originally invited the university to Qatar.
Diederik Krom, president of CHN Qatar, told OBG, "We came to Qatar to fill a need [..] and have continued to expand as the economy grows further. We are now moving ahead with postgraduate programmes, such as in international service management, which will begin in March."
In addition to a broad spectrum of technical and applied education and training programmes, the College of the North Atlantic in Qatar (CNAQ) offers customised curricula to build and enhance the skills of individuals already in the workforce and to meet the needs of the local market through professional education and specialised educational tracks.
Harald Jorch, president of CNAQ, told OBG, "The role of College of the North Atlantic in Qatar is to provide a wide curriculum beyond the scope of the specialised higher educational institutions in the country, thus helping to bridge identified gaps in the workforce demanded by Qatar's rapidly expanding economy."
The dean and CEO of Texas A&M University in Qatar, Mark Weichold, told OBG, "It is important for the overall development of Qatar to continue to build a knowledge-based economy. This must occur beyond institutions of higher education - primary and secondary schools must also provide a stronger foundation to prepare them for studying at Texas A&M at Qatar and other Education City universities. The Supreme Education Council has undertaken important initiatives in this regard, such as encouraging greater interaction between higher educational institutions and secondary schools. It is also implementing the findings of the Evaluation Institute, which assesses performance in Qatar schools and educates students and their parents about how they can maximise educational opportunities."
The significant efforts being undertaken in Qatar to reform and diversify educational opportunities, as well as create an environment to foster research, development and innovation are all designed to help the country progress towards a more balanced economy and long-term stability. The presence of world-renowned foreign universities not only underscores how seriously the issue is being taken.