NU to open school in Qatar

Emily Glazer

Northwestern finalized a contract to establish a journalism and communication school in the Arab state of Qatar, officials announced Wednesday.

The Qatar Foundation and NU have been working on a contract since last spring, when NU first announced its plans to open a school in Education City, a 2,500-acre site on the outskirts of Qatar’s capital, Doha. Five schools operated by U.S. universities already are housed in Education City.

The NU school, which is scheduled to open in Fall Quarter 2008, will be funded by the Qatar Foundation, a private nonprofit organization. This will be the first time NU offers undergraduate degrees away from its Evanston campus.

About 40 students are expected to enroll next fall, said Alan Cubbage, NU’s vice president for university relations.

In its first year, the campus will serve primarily non-Evanston students, likely Qataris and other students from the Middle East, Cubbage said. Eventually the Qatari campus may be open for Evanston-based NU students to study abroad, he said.

The Al-Jazeera Network, which owns the leading Arabic-language news channel, is based in Doha.

Officials said admissions requirements, degrees received upon graduation and tuition fees will be identical to NU’s.

NU’s School of Communication will offer a program in media industries and technologies that will focus on a global perspective of the entertainment industry, said School of Communication Dean Barbara O’Keefe.

O’Keefe said administrators have designed a unique curriculum for the first four years, and they hope their plans will evolve.

“We expect to keep opening more and more access to the curriculum,” she said. “Eventually it’s possible the same curriculum will be offered there as the same school here.”

O’Keefe said NU students will be able to take classes via video conference, allowing Evanston students to take classes in Doha without physically being there and vice versa. NU currently uses this method in one of its graduate Communication programs.

“We have a class that meets in Evanston, but every year we admit roughly 10 students who come in from all over the world and participate via video conferencing,” O’Keefe said.

Most of those students work from home, she said.

The Medill School of Journalism will offer a program in journalism, media and integrated marketing communications. The program will eventually mirror Medill’s current curriculum in Evanston, Cubbage said.

Qatari students will also be required to fulfill a Journalism Residency – the internship program at a professional media outlet completed by current Medill students in their junior or senior years – for one quarter away from Doha. Qatari students could travel to Medill’s Evanston or Washington D.C. classrooms or may have the opportunity to work in a newsroom in the Middle East, Cubbage said.

Right now no professors have made a final commitment to teach in Qatar, but a large number of faculty members are interested, O’Keefe said. O’Keefe said the communication school will eventually need 12 faculty members there every year, and administrators may develop a cyclical system so professors aren’t required to stay there for an extended period of time.

Provost Daniel Linzer said NU will need to hire additional professors because of the added courses in Qatar.

“A fair number of people have expressed interest, but until you have a signed agreement, there’s no formal commitment,” he said. “A lot of people find this intriguing, just like a lot of students like study abroad.”

One challenge the university may encounter is in arranging the school schedule around holidays celebrated in Qatar. Linzer said he suspected there will be some issues to resolve in mapping out the calendar, although he referenced NU’s law school, which follows a semester system despite NU’s undergraduate quarter system.

NU’s expansion to Qatar is a part of a university initiative during the past 10 years “to make Northwestern a more international university,” Cubbage said.

Ten years ago, between 8 percent and 9 percent of students went abroad, compared with the currently more than 25 percent of NU students, he said.

NU will also offer a pre-college preparatory program run by Medill in Qatar.

Abdulla bin Ali Al-Thani, vice president of education at the Qatar Foundation, made a speech in Qatar on Wednesday afternoon praising the connection between NU and the Qatar Foundation.

“Northwestern is one of the best in this field, and the arrival of this institution and these programs will, I think, further enhance our combined reputation,” he said.

NU first received word that it won a bid for a journalism and communication school from the Qatar Foundation in April. Other contenders were Boston University and the universities of Florida and Missouri.

NU’s journalism and communication school will join Carnegie Mellon University’s computer science and business administration school, Cornell University’s medical school, Georgetown University’s foreign service school, Texas A&M University’s engineering school and Virginia Commonwealth University’s School of the Arts.

The five campuses are all funded by the Qatar Foundation.

Reach Emily Glazer at [email protected]