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Destination Qatar - Calling International Students

Qatar, on the northeast coast of the Arabian Peninsula in western Asia, offers some intriguing opportunities for international students. In addition to a pair of Qatari universities, the country is home to a dozen foreign-based institutions of higher education.

Qatar is a monarchy, it lacks public transportation, the roads can become impassable, and drinking-water quality varies. However, the postsecondary schools where international students live are modern, often state-of-the-art, facilities. English is the second language in this country, which eases the transition for students from other lands.

An entry visa, which cost only $25 at last report, must be obtained upon arrival at the airport in the city of Doha. A visa may be purchased in advance by contacting the Qatari embassy in London or Washington, D.C. Foreign students also must secure Qatar residence permits, for which universities provide information and assistance.

Qatari Universities
The largest institution based in the country, Qatar University, offers undergraduate and graduate degrees. It provides an Arabic program for non-native speakers. The school’s website states that its International Student Section “supports the growth, progress, and success of (foreign students), and aims to ease their transition to a new school, new home, and new country.” Students receive help with personal, financial, immigration, and housing issues. The university awards scholarships to undergraduates from certain countries, as well as “short scholarships” to non-native speakers enrolled in the Arabic program.

The other Qatar-based post-secondary institution, Hamad bin Khalifa University, opened in 2013. It is a research school with colleges of science, engineering, technology, humanities and social sciences, public health, and business.

Foreign Campuses
Universities based in the United States, Canada, the United Kingdom, France, and other nations operate campuses in Qatar. One of the largest, with more than 4,600 students, is Canada’s College of North Atlantic. Its areas of study are health sciences, information technology, engineering technology, and business studies.

Carnegie Mellon University in Qatar offers the same degree programs as those at the institution’s home campus in Pittsburgh, Penn. HEC Paris, which the Financial Times ranked No. 1 for executive education, has a business school in Qatar that teaches management courses in English. Stenden University Qatar is one of the institution’s five campuses around the world. It provides bachelor’s, master’s, and certificate programs in applied sciences.

Other foreign institutions offering postsecondary education in Qatar are the Georgetown University School of Foreign Service, Northwestern University, Texas A&M, Virginia Commonwealth University, Weill Cornell Medical College, University College London, and the University of Calgary.

The Academic Bridge Programme provides pre-university instruction for high school graduates from the region. Students from more than 30 countries have graduated from the institution.

Qatar Foundation
The Qatar Foundation for Educational, Science, and Community Development supports these institutions of higher learning, which are located in Doha. The nonprofit organization, established in 1995, receives funding from the national government and private sources. Its stated mission is to “support Qatar on its journey from a carbon economy to a knowledge economy by unlocking human potential.”

The foundation has been instrumental in drawing foreign universities to Qatar. It seeks to teach young people science and technology skills, so they can develop their homelands into more modern nations. Another objective is to establish Qatar as a research and development center.

According to a recent report, international students from more than 90 nations were enrolled in higher-education programs in Qatar. They made up about half of the combined enrollment, with the rest consisting of Qatari natives.

The weather is nice during the academic year, with January highs in the 70s. During the mid-summer months, the mercury regularly climbs to 106 degrees or beyond. Qatar’s climate is extremely arid, with less than 2 inches of annual average precipitation. Students can take trips to ocean beaches for some sun and sand; head for desert areas to camp, bike, or “dune bash”; and visit attractions like art museums, mosques, and other examples of Islamic architecture.

Attending a university in Qatar exposes international students to wide ethnic and cultural diversity. The knowledge and lessons they learn from this experience may broaden their perspectives and serve them well in future endeavors.