After the (football)
party is over:
Education in Qatar
Partner, Head of Office,
Head of Banking & Finance - Qatar
Whisper it softly, but you might be aware that Qatar is hosting a pretty significant sporting event at the end of 2022. Indeed, for anyone who has visited Qatar during the past few years, it is tempting to think that the country’s sole reason to exist is for those four weeks of football due to culminate on Qatar’s National Day in December. 7 new stadia have been built on greenfield (yellow sand) sites, an entire metro system has been built from scratch to link the stadia, thousands of kilometres of new roads have been laid, a new airport built and scores of hotels erected for the sporting jamboree. It appears that the FIFA World Cup 2022 has become the national obsession in Qatar.
That would be to do a disservice to Qatar. Even though the government has mandated all schools to be closed for the duration of the tournament, the FIFA World Cup 2022 is intended to act as the springboard to accelerate the country’s economic, social and environmental development. The Qatar National Vision 2030 is made up of four pillars: human development, social development, economic development and environmental development. Education sits at the heart of the Qatar National Vision 2030, with Qatar determined to create a regional hub of educational excellence. And, as a neat segue with the football, one of the newly built stadia is in Education City, the vast complex of bespoke educational establishments built over the past decade to provide Qatar with enhanced university provision.
The challenges facing Qatar in schooling are common to most countries across MENA. At one end, there is the need to increase access to education, to raise levels of basic reading proficiency across the population and to close the gender gap which has female students outperforming their male colleagues across many subjects. At the other end of the scale, Qatar is focussed on developing world-renowned research institutions to underpin its desire to be a regional and global leader in renewable energy technology and medicine.
Qatar is utilising its recently-enacted public / private partnership programme to upgrade education provision. Under the programme, the government plans to build 45 new public schools at a capital cost of QR4billion to provide an additional 34,000 student places. The schools PPP, whilst common in many other countries, is the first time this type of partnership has been used in Qatar for social infrastructure. The PPP is attracting a great deal of interest from education providers, constructors and financiers as the private sector will design, build and operate the new schools. It is divided into six investment packages, to be offered on a staggered basis.
In addition to the new schools being built under the PPP programme, there has been a boom in privately operated schools in Qatar, with several high-profile education providers opening or substantially expanding facilities in Qatar.
Doha College, for example, is in its second academic year at a new campus with facilities for nearly 2500 students. Valley Forge, a US school, has recently opened in Qatar for pre-K to grades 6 to 7. Sherborne School, a school originally founded in England in 1550, has opened its new purpose-built campus in Qatar to provide 1600 student places (ironically its new campus is almost next door to one of the new football stadium). Orbital Education is opening a 2600-place campus for 3 to 18 years olds, its second major school in Doha.
Perhaps the most eye-catching development is the huge investment being made in universities in Qatar. There are a plethora of internally-recognisable universities operating in Qatar, such as HEC (France), North Western (US), Aberdeen University (UK) and University of Calgary (Canada). These sit alongside the local flagbearers of Qatar University and Hamad bin Khalifa University, which are making a concerted effort to broaden the programmes offered to better align with the requirements of the Qatar National Vision 2030. There is an emphasis on science and technology, with a stated commitment to tailor course content and the overall education experience to ensure that graduates have both the technical and soft skills to contribute to Qatar’s continued development. In addition, there is a very visible and successful commitment to supporting female participation in higher education: in 2021, over 2800 female students graduated from nine colleges in Qatar University alone. This is a reflection of Qatar’s progressive stance on education, burnished by some very senior and high-profile female members of government and business. For example, Qatar’s Covid strategy was led by H.E. Hanan Mohamed Al Kuwari, Minister of Public Health.
From the perspective of employers, there has been visible progress in linking education courses with the private sector, with internships, joint research projects and other collaboration. This is intended to make students who graduate in Qatar as well-prepared for working life as their counterparts in other parts of the world have been for generations.
The growth of education provision therefore provides various opportunities, for investors and education providers, contractors and ancillary service providers. The increased completion will drive up standards and also elevate the base level of education provision in Qatar. It is crucial for the Qatar National Vision 2030 and beyond that all children from all backgrounds get access to a high quality and consistent education. The building blocks are all there, so it will be interesting to witness progress over the coming years.
For further information,
please contact Matthew Heaton.
Published in August 2022
Illustration of Albert Einstein