Northwestern renews contract for Qatar campus through 2027-28 academic year

Fathma Rahman, Reporter

Northwestern will maintain its Qatar campus for an additional 10 years after extending its agreement with the Qatar Foundation through the 2027-28 academic year.

In 2006, the Qatar Foundation invited Northwestern to open a campus in what is known as Education City, which NU did in 2008.

“NU-Q has met and exceeded expectations as it has produced new talent for communication and media industries in Qatar and the region,” Provost Daniel Linzer said in a press release Tuesday. “We’re very pleased to continue this important academic enterprise.”

Linzer traveled to NU-Q last week to sign the contract, which extends the current one that was set to expire in 2018. The agreement was important to ensure future classes would have a place from which to graduate, said NU-Q Dean and CEO Everette Dennis.

NU-Q offers majors in communication and journalism through the School of Communication and the Medill School of Journalism, Media, Integrated Marketing Communications, respectively, in addition to some liberal arts classes through the Weinberg College of Arts and Sciences, Dennis said

“It’s a school designed to provide an array of communication professionals and other educated people for this region,” Dennis said. “We’ve been here for eight years and the school has been deemed to be quite successful in terms of developing a unified curriculum, hiring a high quality faculty, some of whom come from the home campus, and recruiting students of quality.”

Currently, NU-Q has 207 students in residence and has produced 149 graduates — 25 percent of whom have gone on to graduate schools around the world, including University of Oxford, University of Cambridge, Harvard University, McGill University and NU, Dennis said.

“We’re very proud of the students who’ve come out of NU-Q,” Dennis said. “This (extension) is an assessment of how well we’ve done as a school.”

NU-Q has developed institutional research projects and has done extensive work on media use and the media industry in the Middle East, as well on relevant topics in the region, including gender and freedom of expression, Dennis said. The school’s permanent building, measuring 515,000 square feet, will open in the next academic year and will be one of the most expensive communication buildings in the world, he added.

In addition to the new space, NU-Q is developing plans for executive and mid-career education, which Dennis said is important in a region with an evolving media industry that needs assistance. NU-Q is also exploring the possibility of master’s degree programs in the media industry and in health communication.

Most notably, NU-Q plans to extend its work with the Evanston campus, expanding programs that send students and faculty between the two campuses in efforts to connect the two communities.

The Qatar Support Office works with the undergraduate schools to provide NU-Q students with everything they need when they visit Evanston, said Erin Libby, who heads the office. The office also helps facilitate cross-campus familiarization trips from Evanston to Qatar and vice versa.

“Whenever NU-Q students come to the states, they like to call the NU-Qatar Support Office the NU-Q embassy,” Libby said. “It’s their home away from home.”

In addition to plans for extensions of its travel programs, NU-Q is also currently preparing to recruit for its third cycle of students to send from Evanston to study abroad in Qatar.

Some faculty, however, have raised concerns about NU’s presence in Qatar. After visiting the campus early last year, art history Prof. Stephen Eisenman, former president of the Faculty Senate, published a report in which he raised questions about censorship, faculty appointment and academic freedom at the school.

“I know there are critics who don’t think we should be here, but I don’t know a better place to do the kind of work that Northwestern has always stood for in the world,” Dennis said. “We don’t need to be going to places where everything is already done. There’s work to be done here — unfinished work — and I think that it’s really important to be part of this.”

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