Posted on April 14, 2015

Qatar University’s College of Arts and Sciences (QU-CAS) progress, growth, and future plans were recently discussed at its Advisory Board meeting for the academic year 2014-2015. The meeting was opened by QU President Prof Sheikha Abdulla Al-Misnad, who welcomed the members to the meeting and expressed her appreciation the attendees’ participation.

CAS Dean Dr Eiman Mustafawi proceeded to welcome H.E. Mr Saad Alrumaihi, Secretary to H.H. Father Emir for Pursuance Affairs, Advisory Board Chair, H.E. Sheikh Saoud bin Abdulrahman Al-Thani, Secretary General and CEO, Qatar Olympic Committee, Dr Hassan Al-Mohannadi, Director of the Diplomatic Institute, Qatar Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Advisory Board Vice Chair, Mr Said Al Muhannadi, Senior Advisory to the President and CEO, Qatar Petroleum, Prof Gilles Bousquet, Senior Special Assistant for International Strategies for the President of the University of Wisconsin System, Dr Jennifer Dupont, Research Director, ExxonMobil Research Qatar, Dr Adnan Shihab-Eldin, Director General, Kuwait Foundation for the Advancement of Sciences.

Dr Mustafawi expressed her appreciation to the Board for their follow up of CAS’ progress and their willingness to provide CAS with valuable advice and support. Dr Mustafawi reminded the board of the vision and mission of CAS which are:

Vision: The College of Arts and Sciences aspires to be a regional leader in interdisciplinary education and research, and to advance societal progress.

Mission: The College of Arts and Sciences is the heart of Qatar University’s liberal education model. The College prepares well-rounded, creative and competent graduates through interdisciplinary enquiry, which equips them with imaginative and critical thinking skills to be effective members of society. CAS fosters an intellectual environment that stimulates creativity, inclusiveness and a global perspective.

Dr Mustafawi noted that CAS has 17 undergraduate programs, 6 graduate programs, 6209 undergraduate students, 116 graduate students and 480 academic staff.

Dr Mustafawi presented data on the performance of the College against its annual action plan. For most objectives, the College achieved or exceeded the target. For example, CAS faculty received 25 research grants valued at QR 44,378,114, an increase of 19% from the previous year, observing that the percentage of faculty’s indexed publications was above the expected target (68%). She also presented CAS strategic plan objectives, focusing on the implementation of an integrated approach to quality recruitment of research faculty and staff, with the added motive of enhancing interdisciplinary and collaborative research projects, while enhancing research productivity and quality metrics, as well as enhancing interdisciplinary opportunities in CAS priority research areas.

She added that, during the last academic year, CAS signed 7 MoUs with local and international institutions such as University of Dalhousie, Middle East Institute at the National University of Singapore, Ministry of Labour and Social Affairs, Katara, Hamad Medical Corporation, Graduate School of Arts and Sciences, College of Arts and Sciences, The University of Tokyo and Weill Cornell Medical College in Qatar, proof of CAS’ mission to foster an intellectual environment that stimulates creativity, inclusiveness, and a global perspective.

She highlighted the progress made last year, which included promoting students’ professional development and employability. This was done through conducting a number of soft skills workshops, enhancing the teaching and learning process by adopting a hybrid E-learning approach in some courses. During the last year the College worked on the recruitment of more students to programs in applied sciences, and the targets were achieved except for the programs of Public Health and Statistics programs. Success was achieved on increasing student exchange programs which provide a range of study abroad opportunities, conferences, and cultural trip.

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Furthermore, she highlighted the development of extra-curricular students activities and clubs, observing that the percentage of initiated student club associations linked to departments was twice the target. These are examples of efforts that have been fostered in harmony with Qatar National Vision 2030, she indicated, in order to provide society with students and citizens that would be able to achieve their ambitions and fulfill the needs of a knowledge-based economy.

Dr Mustafawi also drew attention to CAS’ effort in promoting Qatar heritage and culture through hosting events, establishing policies, and signing MoUs that feed into this goal, adding that CAS made a significant progress in providing opportunities to the community for intellectual engagement by inviting the public to its conferences that are of interest to the public. On the measures that were below target Dr Mustafawi noted that two graduate and two undergraduate programs were supposed to be approved but have been postponed until 2014-15. She also pointed out that research positions advertised have been filled only partially. 

For the current academic year, CAS has thus far expanded its local and international connections through signing 8 MoUs with many local and international institutions, namely: Naufar Project (Qatar Healthcare & Rehabilitation Center), Korea Foundation, The Institute for Energy Economics, Institute of Developing Economics (IDE-JETRO) Japan, Osaka University, Australian National, Faculty of Science, University of Copenhagen, Denmark University, and Primary Health Care Corporation.

She also noted that CAS’ 3 interdisciplinary research centers, the Sustainable Development Center, the Humanities and Social Sciences Center, and the Gulf Studies Center, have started their activities to enhance research productivity in the College through organizing remarkable events including workshops, seminars, conferences, and engaging the faculty. H.E. Sheikh Saoud bin Abdulrahman Al-Thani indicated that QOC is interested in collaborating with the Center for Sustainable Development since sustainability is one of the areas of interest to QOC.

Dr Mustafawi added that CAS is starting 4 new programs for fall 2015 including: Minor in French, MSc Public Health, MSc Applied Statistics and PhD Gulf Studies noting that there will be 2 reactivated undergraduate programs, BSc Physics and BSc Mathematics.

Dr Mustafawi shared with the members the challenges that CAS currently faces, such as infrastructure issues, preparedness of new students, and English proficiency of arts graduates, stressing that the College has established the Academic Hub in order to enhance students’ academic performance through offering academic support services. A further step towards improving students’ skills and performance comes from a suggestion by Dr Adnan Shihab-Eldin, who suggested that QU may offer remedial electronic material to address the deficiency in student’s basic skills.

The members discussed a wide range of topics; Dr Adnan Shihab-Eldin commended the College for pursuing a liberal Arts and Sciences education. He indicated that graduates of liberal Arts and Sciences could fit in any work environment and not necessarily directly related to their specific majors. He also noted that students across the Gulf, as well as the public, do not realize that the highest paid graduates in the banking industry for example are PhD holders in physics and mathematics.

Here, H.E. Mr Saad Alrumaihi indicated that we need to launch an awareness campaign to educate the public on this issue, noting that those students who are adept at mathematics are often encouraged to study Finance instead of Mathematics as most parents will not realize the application of a Mathematics degree in the job market. Dr Jennifer Dupont said that it may be beneficial to add courses in statistics to the major requirements of more popular programs such as Biology and Chemistry as a way to allow more students to acquire skills in this important area.

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H.E. Sheikh Saoud bin Abdulrahman Al-Thani stressed the importance of student internships in the last 6 months of their undergraduate study as a bridge to employment post-graduation. He asked the College to consider introducing such courses to majors that do not require them. H.E. Mr Saad Alrumaihi stressed the importance for students to choose a career path based on their passion and not simply on job marketability. For example, he finds that Mass Communication is a very important field but should be chosen by students with a passion for journalism.

Dr Adnan Shihab-Eldin also noted the importance of recruiting exceptional visiting professors from Qatar, the Gulf, and internationally in order to work towards CAS’ vision. Dr Mustafawi responded that CAS has indeed been using this scheme for Niche programs, such as Gulf Studies Master Program which hosts prominent scholars specialized in issues related to the Gulf in a semester by semester basis. Dr Adnan Shihab-Eldin and Dr Eiman Mustafawi agreed to the importance of research in creating a knowledge-based society, addressing societal problems, and updating teaching methods and materials.

Dr Mustafawi pointed out that CAS has increased the number of new recruits to the Qatarization program (and in fact is the College that hosts the most students as part of the program), and it is found that Qataris are more interested than they were in the past in regards to joining academia.

She also confirmed that CAS reaches outs to Qatari students with high GPAs and encourages them to apply to the program, noting that a further 36 Qataris are being prepared for academic careers. Furthermore, she indicated that CAS invites young Qataris with potential for administrative roles to leadership workshops organized by the College. Dr Hassan Al-Mohannadi indicated that the highest performing students in the Diplomatic Institute over the past three years have been from QU which shows the quality of the university. He noted that his experience with QU graduates of the last 3 years is very positive and that they are proud to have them, adding that majors such as History can produce excellent candidates for the Diplomatic Institute.

Dr Al-Mohannadi noted the presence of a number of diplomatic staff from poorer countries such as Macedonia who would like to study Arabic and inquired about the possibility of the Arabic for Non-Native Speakers (ANNS) program facilitating their study. Dr Mustafawi indicated that ANNS is very popular in this regard and that a number of diplomatic missions and some European universities requested reserving certain number of seats yearly. H.E. Sheikh Saoud bin Abdulrahman Al-Thani noted that the Qatar Olympic Committee is also very active abroad and may benefit from this programs.

Dr Hassan Al-Mohannadi also encouraged CAS to create an academic journal. Dr Mustafawi noted that the newly established centers will produce such publications. Dr Jennifer Dupont commended CAS for the establishment of its graduate degrees. She noted that ExxonMobil Research Qatar is very pleased with its student interns from CAS and the various student and faculty engaged in research projects. In her closing remarks, Dr Mustafawi thanked all board members for their advice and continued support.