Qatar’s University of Doha for Science and Technology has just graduated its first class. The new university replaced Canada’s College of the North Atlantic Qatar earlier this year and now offers bachelor’s and master’s degrees.
The College of the North Atlantic–Qatar (CNA-Q) was a branch of the largest technical and skills-training college in the province of Newfoundland and Labrador. Founded 20 years ago, it worked in partnership with the state of Qatar throughout that period.
Three years ago, the college signed a new service agreement with the state of Qatar supporting the campus’s move to full independence.
Ken MacLeod, CNA-Q’s former president, told Al-Fanar Media that although the transformation was not in the initial agreement, both sides realised it would be inevitable.
Early this year, the emir of Qatar, Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani, signed a decree establishing the new university. The University of Doha for Science and Technology is now an independent educational institution with its own leadership, staff, and a new name.
‘A Big Milestone’
The chairman of the new university’s board of trustees, Mohammed bin Saleh Al-Sada, called the transition “a big milestone”, the first time a branch campus of a foreign educational institution in Qatar had become an independent university.
Salem bin Nasser Al-Naemi, president of the University of Doha for Science and Technology, explained: “CNA-Q was established about 20 years ago to transfer knowledge and build a technical college within the nation. The knowledge transfer happened, and so the transformation is the natural progression of our educational institution to meet local and global needs and further develop its position as a world-class university.”
“The transformation to an independent university is the natural progression of our educational institution to meet local and global needs and further develop its position as a world-class university.”Salem bin Nasser Al-Naemi President of the University of Doha for Science and Technology
Al-Naemi said that the transformation was more than a change of titles. The new university has upgraded all its policies to be able to work independently. Its programmes are now accredited nationally and are in the process of receiving international accreditation.
A 20-Year Partnership in Qatar
The College of North Atlantic-Qatar was established in 2001 through an agreement between the Qatari Ministry of Education and Higher Education and the parent institution in Canada. The initial agreement was to form a technical college in Qatar to respond primarily to the needs of Qatar Petroleum, the national oil corporation, for skilled employees.
The campus offered primarily diploma and certificate programmes in business and information technology, engineering technology and industrial trades, and health sciences. Last year, it added 20 bachelor’s and master’s degree programmes.
“The mandate was to have an institution that practiced applied experiential learning and graduated skilled, well-trained technicians or technologists. The college system in Canada at that time was focused on doing just that,” Ken MacLeod, the former college’s president.
“I think the College of the North Atlantic always saw their role as capacity building and that the institution would become a national entity at some point,” he added. “That point has come.”
International Campuses in Qatar
Qatar is home to branches of six U.S. universities, one Canadian university, and one French institution.
Some scholars have questioned the value of international branch campuses. One study published last year concluded that U.S. branch campuses cost Gulf states more than the countries got in return.
Other scholars, however, have argued that demand for branch campuses in the Gulf states is strong and likely to continue. In an op-ed published in University World News last year, six researchers affiliated with a team that has tracked cross-border education for 10 years identified the Gulf states as one of the world’s fastest growing regions for international campuses.
They wrote: “Given the increasing concerns about student safety and political instability in traditional study-abroad destinations such as Australia, the U.S. and the United Kingdom, it is likely that we will see an increase in the demand for a global education provided locally.”
A Demand for Degrees
“I think the College of the North Atlantic always saw their role as capacity building and that eventually the institution would become a national entity at some point. That point has come.”Ken MacLeod The former college’s president
Al-Naemi told Al-Fanar Media that many alumni of CNA-Q had gone on to acquire bachelor’s degrees. “The industries also advised us that they need a bachelor’s degree. That’s why naturally we worked on transferring all our programmes to bachelor’s degrees,” he said.
The new university offers 19 applied bachelor’s programmes, three applied master’s programmes, and 24 diploma programmes. It has also launched 12 new programmes that will be available from the start of the new academic year this fall.
MacLeod agreed that not awarding degrees had long been a barrier to student enrollment since employment in Qatar was often based on having a degree.
“The pressure was always there from the students from day one that they wanted a degree because the diploma was thought of as a less prestigious credential,” he said.
The number of new enrollments seems to confirm that conclusion. Al-Naemi said two years ago the university had only 1,800 students but now it had 5,400.
A University of Applied Sciences
As a university of applied sciences, the University of Doha for Science and Technology focuses on experiential learning and employability.
“Research universities’ programmes are mainly focused on specific research topics, while universities of applied sciences’ programmes are hands-on oriented,” Al-Naemi said.
He added: “We seek to provide students with applied learning in technology-rich classrooms, workshops, laboratories, and simulated environments as we aim to give students as many real-life learning experiences as possible, so they can extend what they acquired in the classroom to their workplace and actively contribute to the economy.”
To provide students with the skills needed in today’s job market, Al-Naemi said that the new university worked with Qatar’s government and private sectors to shape curricula that respond to local and international needs.
“Qatar needs applied sciences education more than anywhere else because our economy is mainly dependent on the oil and gas industry, which is very practical in nature,” Al-Naemi said. “The University of Doha for Science and Technology is the answer for such a need.”
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While the role of universities will evolve in Qatar and elsewhere, MacLeod hopes that the University of Doha for Science and Technology preserves its experiential learning focus.
“I am elated to see CNA-Q become a university,” he said. “I really hope that they find the right blend of theory and practice, because Doha does not need another research university.”