Health & Education

Brains Boxes

How has Qatar Foundation helped shape the human capital of the nation?

How has Qatar Foundation helped shape the human capital of the nation?

In keeping with the Qatar National Vision 2030, the state of Qatar is determined to turn into a knowledge-based economy soon, which is impossible without a pool of human capital with diverse skillsets.

Universities have traditionally been in charge of training a nation’s skilled workforce and equipping them with the right knowhow.

Although Qatar’s higher education sector is formed of an exciting mix of public, private, and international institutions—of which more shortly—Qatar Foundation (QS) plays a pivotal role in keeping the sector vibrant.

QF was launched as a nonprofit in 1995 by the royal family of Qatar, including the QF’s visionary and architect, HH Sheikha Moza Bint Nasser. Over the years, QF has tried to make a difference by making education more accessible than ever for young Qataris.

Many of QF’s initiatives are intend to complement the education sector of the country, focusing on those aspects of societal and personal development which usually remain unaddressed in traditional schools and colleges.

Such community development initiatives “provide a platform to fully engage communities on the ground and build programs that develop our nation as a whole,” according to QF.

QF indeed has a point. Our way of life and the way we see the world have undergone huge changes over the last couple of years. The kind of technical knowhow that is offered at colleges and universities is insufficient to train the human capital that an aspiring knowledge-based economy such as Qatar will need in the coming years.

In a world that develops at an ever-accelerating pace, raw information is freely accessible to all, and mediocre jobs are increasingly entrusted to artificial intelligence, the workforce needs a new set of skills: to think critically about any issue at hand, to think on one’s feet under pressure, and to contribute something to the community that computers and robots just cannot.

A variety of initiatives launched by QF are trying to address this need. QatarDebate, for example, “seeks to promote the culture and use of debate, open dialogue, and discussion as effective academic and personal development skills amongst secondary and university students.”

By simultaneously developing the participants’ critical thinking skills as well as the culture of dialogue, initiatives such as QatarDebate can truly train the kind of leaders and decision-makers that a knowledge-based economy at the dawn of 2030 requires.

Some 900,000 students in Qatar have so far participated in at least one of the initiatives offered by QF, which given the population of the nation’s student body means almost all Qatari students have benefited from at least one of QF’s programs over the last decade.

All that said, to boost a nation’s human capital, mainstream academic education cannot be neglected either.

And it is not!

Qatar is home to several types of universities. In terms of traditional state universities, the country has institutions such as the Qatar University (QU). As the nation’s oldest seat of higher education and the only public university in the country, QU has trained many of the current civil servants, public figures, and business leaders since its establishment in 1973.

After a structural reform in the mid-2000s, QU sets great store by original research, aiming “to increase visibility of the original research and scholarly works.” Over the years, QU researchers have come up with a number of remarkable ideas.

It was QU scholars, for instance, who for the first time talked about the risks of a hydrocarbon-based economy, long before “diversification” became a buzzword in the region.

QF has completely influenced the higher education sector in yet another way. In 2003, QF inaugurated its Educational City in Al Rayyan.

The project houses overseas campuses of eight major institutions of higher education, including six American, one British, and one French universities. The Education City is organized in such a way that each satellite university mainly focuses on one area.

While Weill Cornell Medicine-Qatar trains the future healthcare providers, the Virginia Commonwealth University in Qatar is essentially an art school, and the Texas A&M University at Qatar focuses on engineering programs.

Satellite campuses of international universities speed up the process of knowledge transfer by attracting faculty members and students from all over the world.

They may, thus, end up training not only the Qatari citizens, but also a wave of Qatari-educated expats who know the local community and its needs very well. What is more, international universities have slightly adjusted their curricula specifically for the needs of Qatar and its human capital.

“HEC Paris in Qatar acts as an accelerator of careers. If someone is on the path of being an entrepreneur, a top manager, a CEO, or sitting on a board of directors, our school can accelerate that transition by giving them the tools, techniques, and skills that are required,” according to Pablo Martin de Holan, dean of HEC Paris in Qatar, who recently spoke with TBY.

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