Posted on April 17, 2016

Qatar University College of Arts & Sciences (QU-CAS) outlined its progress, growth, and future plans at its Advisory Board meeting for the academic year 2015-2016. The meeting was opened by QU President Dr. Hassan Rashid Al-Derham, who welcomed the members to the meeting and expressed his appreciation for the attendees’ participation. H.E. Mr. Saad Al Rumaihi, chair of CAS Advisory Board, welcomed the members to the meeting, thanked the Dean and CAS for bringing the members together, and thanked everyone for coming, expressing the importance of the board actions and that he was looking forward to their expert contributions.

CAS Dean Dr. Eiman Mustafawi proceeded to welcome the new members in addition to the continuing ones from last year, including Sheikh Saoud bin Abdulrahman Al-Thani, President of Qatar Basketball Federation, 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, Mr. Youssif A. Saleh, QSRTC General Manager, Qatar Shell Research & Technology Centre – QSRTC, Prof. Gilles Bousquet, Senior Special Advisor for International Strategies for the President of the University of Wisconsin System, Prof. Adnan Shihab-Eldin, Director General, Kuwait Foundation for the Advancement of Sciences, Professor Anoush Ehteshami, Director of the Al-Sabah Program and Joint Director of the ESRC Centre for the Advanced Study of the Arab World in the School of Government and International Affairs Special Advisor to the Islamic Criminal Justice Project in the Centre for Criminal Law & Justice, Dr. Richard Leete, Advisor to HE the Minister of Development, Planning and Statistics, and Dr Mohamed Al-Sulaiti, Research Director, ExxonMobil Research Qatar. Two members apologized for not being able to attend.

Dr. Eiman expressed her appreciation to the Board for their follow up on CAS’ progress and their willingness to provide CAS with valuable advice and support. Dr Eiman reminded the board of the college’s vision which is to be a regional leader in interdisciplinary education and research, and to advance societal progress, and its mission to prepare 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. Eiman noted that CAS has 14 Undergraduate Degrees, 7 Graduate Degrees including a dual Ph.D. degree in Gulf Studies with Durham University, and a dual Ph.D. degree with Korea University in the Biological and Environmental Sciences, in addition to one Certificate Program offered by the Arabic for Non Native Speakers Center (ANNS) adding that 412 students graduated from CAS last year. Dr. Mustafawi noted that CAS has 5 accredited degrees including the accreditation of B.Sc. degree in Chemistry from the Canadian Society for Chemistry (CSC) 2009, B.Sc. Statistics from the Royal Statistical Society (RSS) 2011, the accreditation of the B.Sc. and the M.Sc. degrees in Environmental Science from the Committee of Heads of Environmental Science (CHES) and the Institute of Environmental Sciences (IES) 2012 and the accreditation of the B.A. Mass Communication from the Accrediting Council on Education in Journalism and Mass Communication (ACEJMC) 2013.

On the last year accomplishments, Dr. Eiman stated that CAS has thus far expanded its local and international connections through signing 16 MoUs with many local and international institutions, namely: Korea Foundation, Osaka University, The Institute of Economics in Japan, The Institute of Developing Economies External Trade Organization- IDE-JETRO in Japan, Universite de Liege in Belgium, DEAKIN University in Australia, Australian National University, Al- Sulaiteen Agricultural& Industrial Complex, Qatar Cardiovascular Research Center, Qatar Tourism Authority, Hamad Medical Corporation, Qatar Olympic Committee, Primary Health Care Corporation, Naufar Project (Qatar Healthcare & Rehabilitation Center).

QU CAS progress outlined in 2 [].jpgDr. Eiman presented highlights from last year research annual report. She mentioned that Out of 209 journal articles, 173 were published in indexed journals, noting that Arabic journals are generally non-indexed. She also noted that CAS faculty received 33 research grants valued at QR47,305,095, an increase of 28.5% from the previous. Dr. Eiman indicated that the three new CAS research centers (Gulf Studies Center, Center for Humanities and Social Sciences, and Center for Sustainable Development) have become creation of faculty research groups in 12 interdisciplinary areas, the publications of 35 articles and 2 books and submission of over 20 NPRP proposals, awarding of 10 Seed Funding Projects related to promoting Qatar and the Arab World research topics, Annual Research Conferences, various Workshops and training initiatives for international collaboration and were awarded 4 research grants under the NPRP 8th Cycle program.

Prof. Ehteshami inquired about the research incentives provided by the university and if rankings were used as a quality measure. The Dean replied that international ranking criteria are used for journals and incentives are available such as research awards at university and college levels and even monetary awards for publications from the research office in addition to possible load reduction and availability of graduate assistants. She welcomed additional ideas for incentives from the members.

Dr. Eiman presented some highlights from last year performance against CAS 2013-2016 strategic plan. For most objectives, the college achieved or exceeded the target. For example, the percentage of programs that have an integrated curriculum mapping and assessment of PLOs, CLOs and assessments achieved 100% exceeding the target of 90%, the percentage of senior students who are satisfied with the quality of Academic instruction they received achieved 86% vs target of 70%. However, the percentage of graduates from undergraduate programs who received offer for employment within 6 months of their graduation reached only 50% which is an issue that the college needs to work on in the future.

The Board members discussed a wide range of topics. On student employment, H.E. Mr. Al Rumaihi noted that the conditions of the job market may be to blame in some cases where students are unemployed 6 months post-graduation. He said that over the past few years some institutions have found success contracting students for university scholarships and monthly stipends during their study in exchange for committing to work in such institutions upon graduation. The Dean noted that CAS aims to produce graduates that are desirable and competitive. Dr. Shihab-Eldin agreed, noting that Qatar University as the national university has a social obligation to give its graduates the skills needed to make them employable. However, he added that job market cycles should also be taken into consideration as well as comparisons with other universities.

Prof. Ehteshami confirmed that graduate employability is an important factor used by most international institutions as a key performance indicator. However, no university can provide job guarantees. He anticipated that more emphasis may be put on this indicator when university ranking becomes more formalized. He inquired as to whether QU organizes career fairs. The Dean confirmed that national career fairs are held in Qatar throughout the year whether at QU or outside. Dr. Leete mentioned that it is of the utmost important for this indicator to be aligned with the National Strategy by staking a look at the job sectors entered by graduates. “For national planning purposes, it is very important to see if graduates are going into the public or private sector and to what extent their positions aligned with their degrees” He said.

Dr. Bousquet noted that this was an indicator used by his university to measure how much trust society places in the university to meet its needs. He stressed that it is a very important relationship element but it is not an easy matter to accomplish and that is why universities need to reach out to employers and increase cooperation and collaboration with industry. H.E. Sheikh Al-Thani encouraged CAS to require that students in all majors participate in internships during their last year of study or even earlier due its critical importance for the student before entering the job market.

Dr. Al-Sulaiti mentioned the partnership between CAS and ExxonMobil Research Center in Qatar on many events and internships, which they are trying to extend to year-long internships instead of merely summer long. He confirmed ExxonMobil’s initiatives to hire more qualified Qataris and suggested that student internships could even begin during the freshman or sophomore years instead of waiting until the final year of study. Dr. Bousquet expressed his agreement with placing more focus on practical training and internships as this is unique vehicle for engaging with government and private sectors in a mutually beneficial way. 

Dr. Mustafawi reminded the board members of the main challenges highlighted at last year’s Advisory Board Meeting which included the academic Performance of incoming students, the level of English Proficiency of Arts Student and the infrastructure. Dr. Eiman noted that CAS Introduced a new course for freshman called (UNIV 110 – First Year Seminar). She noted that the retention rate for the cohort of students admitted in spring 2015 who successfully completed UNIV 110 is an impressive 91%.compared to 68% of students admitted in spring 2014 who did not do the course. As for the level of proficiency in English of the Dean indicated that CAS is still working with other QU units to address students’ deficiency in this regard.

Regarding the challenge of ensuring adequate student support, CAS Dean said that Qatar University is working towards ensuring adequate student support trying to manage students with large differences in ability. Dr. Shihab-Eldin noted that this challenge is faced by many institutions across the region including Kuwait. At Kuwait University, applicants are tested on their basic language and math skills and remedial online courses are provided. These types of online courses could be used by other universities in the region also. Prof. Ehteshami agreed that this problem is faced by many universities around the globe and the cost can be counted in monetary and social terms. At Durham University, he mentioned the institution of a Foundation Center that provides a basic foundation for up to a year for entering students prior to their general admission.

Dr. Bousquet congratulated CAS on its 91% retention rate, which is of the highest standard anywhere. Regarding the infrastructure Dr. Mustafawi noted that the new building proposal has been put on hold due to budget constraints. Dr. Mustafawi noted that there is a steady progress in the interdisciplinary research and education that is aligned with the national development vision and Qatar national research priorities. The Dean introduced to the Board members Ms. Eiman A- Maadeed, a current TA and former student in the International Affairs program and Ms. Halima Khwar, a current student in the Policy, Planning, and Development program. Both were invited to talk about their experience with the interdisciplinary degree they pursued.

Ms. Eiman provided a brief overview of her experience at CAS. She noted that she was drawn to the International Affairs program due to its interdisciplinary. She also commended the English skills that she acquired through her study when the program was offered in English and the research skills through her participation in the rigorous Capstone senior course which prepared her for graduate studies in the UK. Ms. Halima provided a brief overview of her experience at CAS. She noted that she originally chose her specialization as it was unique. However, after taking a variety of courses with practical applications, she feels like a completely different person. She has not only learned about actual development issues but also developed her leadership skills and gained new perspectives. While she used to come to the University Just for Classes and then leave, she is now immersed in the campus culture and stays all day.

Dr. Bousquet asked Ms. Eiman and Ms. Halima about the one thing that they would change about their study and the one thing of which they would do more of if given the opportunity. Ms. Eiman said she would have more courses in Arabic as the International Affairs courses used to be in English when she was a student. Also, she would like to do more applying research methods in interdisciplinary research. Ms. Halima said that considering that her program is offered in Arabic, she would like to take some courses in English to increase her proficiency but at the same time she is happy that Arabic is the main language of her coursework.

QU CAS progress outlined in 3 [].jpg

On CAS future plans The Dean also mentioned that CAS needs to decide on possible interdisciplinary degrees options such as, H.E. Sheikh Al-Thani argued that  CAS should study the market and the National Vision in order to offer new majors that will be mutually beneficial to students, society, the university. Mr. Saleh encouraged the college to open majors in areas of need such as Geology. He stressed the importance of having local graduates in such fields so employers don’t have to look for candidates abroad.

On CAS’ potential plan for future expansion with possible interdisciplinary degrees options including, Dr. Leete noted that the UN Global Goals that have been recently passed have over 70 targets under the umbrella of sustainable development, owing to its importance. However, he noted that it is important not to only follow labels but to understand what we want to achieve by aligning any new programs with the National Vision 2030 and National Development Plan. Dr. Bousquet encouraged increased collaboration with the private and public sectors as this provide the college with important information that will influence CAS degree offerings and curriculum in order to meet the needs of these sectors by providing the graduates of tomorrow. 

Regarding CAS future plan to establish a food security or forensic science degree, Dr. Leete suggested combining these into a degree in Security and Human Development as its broader scope could encompass food security, cyber security, and public security. Prof. Ehteshami suggested a degree with a harder (cyber, forensics) and softer (food, human) track. The Dean noted that the College is exploring similar dual track degrees with a proposal in the works for a dual track MA/MSc in Sustainable Development. Dr. Al-Sulaiti stressed the importance of offering degrees that are attractive to students and also do not limit their employability. Dr. Al-Mohannadi noted that the field of food security is broad enough to allow for many specializations. Hence, its graduates could work in a multitude of sectors. The Dean confirmed that different public and private sectors have welcomed the proposal of the establishment of the BSc in Food Security and they promised to provide students with scholarship opportunities.

Dr. Shihab-Eldin encouraged CAS to study the issue further as a broader degree in security could be better than a BSc in Food Security. Dr. Al-Sulaiti noted that these ideas are good but he worries that there is not enough demand for graduates of a BSc in Food Security. Perhaps, Security Studies in general would be better but this needs further study. Dr. Mustafawi noted that many universities are providing the BSc in Food Security. The Dean mentioned that studies have shown that students are more attracted to interdisciplinary degree programs than traditional programs. Also, she confirmed that information on feasibility, market research, and employability are considered before proposing any such degrees. Dr. Al-Sulaiti also remarked on the importance of exploring ways that CAS can truly inspire students and make them love their major so that they move onto careers instead of mere jobs in the future. 

Regarding CAS future research strategy, Dr. Mustafawi proposed the theme “Energy, Environmental Science/Climate Change, and Sustainability”. Dr. Shihab-Eldin suggested that sustainability as a theme would encompass all three and be suitable as this will have an important role in Qatar’s future. Mr. Saleh reiterated the importance of aligning college research themes with the Qatar National Vision for 2030, focusing on energy, water, and cyber security. He suggested reaching out to government and private entities. The Dean noted that there are committees at the University Level that do so. Dr. Bousquet also stressed the importance of nurturing and developing relationships with the private sector and the role of business in research, development, indicating that the President seems to be very interested in this as the government can only provide to a point and then there is a margin of exploration that should be aligned with the national plan and also the priorities of the President.

Dr. Al-Sulaiti indicated their desire to see more activities between the college and industry and referred to the difficulty of finding suitable candidates in certain fields such as Biological and Environmental Sciences, where female graduates are often unable to accept available jobs due to cultural and societal factors. The Dean presented a few points that set the context in which QU operates and therefore would influence its future strategic direction noting that the University, under the new President, is about to embark on its new strategic plan in 2017 and the college will prepare its plan accordingly. Dr. Eiman stated that QU is ranked as a leading institution internationally in terms of global partnerships, and is comprised with a diverse faculty who has the potential to infuse the curriculum with a global perspective, which complements the context of Qatar. She also noted that QU has demonstrated rising productivity through national metrics, and other comparative measures of performance.

Dr. Eiman stated that Qatar University is the largest provider of degree programs in Qatar, yet it is a university that is poised to face an increasingly competitive higher education landscape, which means the choices it makes now will have ramifications for the foreseeable future. Considering the above, QU is exploring the possibility of introducing other campuses in different parts of the country. H.E. Sheikh Al-Thani supported an additional branch for the university and also the building of sports facilities as this would help attract the population to those areas. H.E. Mr. Al Rumaihi thanked everyone for attending and providing their comments and feedback. He bestowed best wishes upon the board for its future work and the continued success of CAS under the Dean’s leadership. In her closing remarks, Dr. Eiman Mustafawi thanked all board members for their advice and continued support.