By Stephanie Allen, Project Assistant.
For a decade now, students in Qatar have been flocking to Education City
on the outskirts of Doha to attend branches of elite American colleges.
Students complete the same coursework required of students at the main
campus to obtain their degree (that includes courses in Texas history at
Texas A&M). Yes, instruction is in English. And, yes, classes are
coed, just like at the flagship schools in the states.
The US has traditionally been a huge exporter of college graduates, with
the best and brightest students from all over the world flocking to
American colleges and universities intent on getting an American
education and taking it back home. New programs like those in Education
City offer something a bit different: an American degree and an American
education without ever setting foot on American soil.
At Education City engineering degrees are offered by Texas A&M,
journalism degrees by Northwestern, medical degrees by Cornell, computer
and business degrees by Carnegie Mellon, art and design degrees by
Virginia Commonwealth University, and foreign service degrees by
And, Education City isn’t the only example either. NYU opened a branch
in Abu Dhabi in 2010 (a full-fledged four-year liberal arts research
university) and Michigan State briefly ran a branch in Dubai. Despite
cultural differences governments in the Persian Gulf are committed to
making American liberal arts educations more widely available. They’re
footing the bill for establishing these branches, building
state-of-the-art research facilities, funding faculty salaries, and
they’re donating large sums of money to the flagship institutions to
boot (Cornell’s medical school is reportedly receiving $750 million over 11 years and NYU reportedly received a $50 million donation up front).
Now, there’s a new kid on the block in Doha: Community College of Qatar.
Modeled after and staffed by Houston Community College, the Community
College of Qatar is the country’s first community college. HCC set up
the program, got it up and running and will provide faculty and staff
under a 5-year, $45 million contract. All expenses are paid by the
Qatari government and on top of that HCC will reportedly get a 10% fee for its services.
There are some who say that these programs are just cash cows for
American colleges and universities. Like Representative Dana
Rohrabacher, a California Republican, who was quoted in the New York Times
as saying “A lot of these educators are trying to present themselves as
benevolent and altruistic, when in reality, their programs are aimed at
making money.” Mary Spangler, chancellor of Houston Community College,
came out and said as much to the Times: “Instead of giving away our expertise, we’re making money from it.”
It’s always been one of our most valuable exports, why shouldn’t we make
money on it? These are non-profit institutions we’re talking about.
That money they’re making selling their expertise abroad will
theoretically be spent keeping tuition down, funding more faculty, more
research, more scholarships, more state-of-the-art facilities here at
home. And with colleges and universities facing tough economic times
too, an influx of cash could go a long way towards ensuring that
American colleges and universities remain among the most highly regarded
in the world.
If only we could be as proud of our primary and secondary schools… alas, that’s a topic for another blog post (see Mac’s post on Tuesday for sad news of metro Atlanta’s primary and secondary school systems).
…But, if you’re interested, Notre Dame philosopher Gary Gutting shared
his opinion on how we might remake our flailing primary and secondary
school systems over in the image of our world renowned postsecondary
institutions last week in the Times’ blog The Stone.