QATAR - Health & Education
President, Hamad Bin Khalifa University (HBKU)
Ahmad M. Hasnah is President of HBKU, a member of Qatar Foundation for Education, Science, and Community Development in Doha. Following his appointment as the executive vice-president and provost of HBKU in 2014, he has been instrumental in the establishment of six colleges: the College of Islamic Studies, College of Humanities and Social Sciences, the College of Science and Engineering, College of Law, College of Health and Life Sciences, and the College of Public Policy. Hasnah has contributed to the research and development enterprise of QF. He has served as a member of the steering committee of the Qatar National Research Fund and the QF Strategic Research Board. Moreover, he is currently overseeing three research institutes under HBKU.
Amidst the COVID-19 scenario, how have you been preparing for the resumption of full academic activities?
The pandemic came with many challenges for education, research, and businesses at large. We are a big believer that every challenge brings an opportunity with it, and it opened many doors for universities to do things in a different way. We were able to shift to online education quickly enough because part of our planning was on building a different educational experience for our students. The pandemic has helped the university push its strategy from a digitalization perspective, accelerated it, and opened many opportunities from the business aspect of the education elements. Even though we were considering how we can reach more students without the need to be physically in Qatar, that experience led us to putting in the right infrastructure in order to bring our degrees and education beyond physical borders. Having that infrastructure allows us to engage professors from different countries to teach classes for the university, for example.
How can global and local coexist together within HBKU at the moment?
The current challenges are global in nature and locally impactful. Climate change is a global issue that has a local relevancy in it, as well as cyber security, for example. It is now the time to truly engage globally in all those challenges. We would like to provide our students, faculty, and researchers with focus on the challenges that are globally important but locally relevant. The way we are approaching things is by focusing on how we can really benefit Qatar and be the driver of change within the country based on the international changes and challenges that are happening. We are preparing our students to understand the local context and challenges and see how they can be an active citizen locally while also contributing to the international community.
How do you capitalize on the educational, research, and community development infrastructure created in Education City?
That atmosphere provides us with multiple advantages. One advantage is the multidisciplinary and interdisciplinary approach to projects, which is the nature of all the problems and challenges people are facing right now. Having all that expertise around allows us to provide educational and research programs that are multidisciplinary and interdisciplinary by nature. When looking at sustainability of the environment, for example, we look at it from an engineering, policy, and media perspective, among others. The other advantage is that we have the continuum chain of taking education and research from the lab into incubation within Qatar Science and Technology Park, and ultimately into a company or business. Our focus for the near future as a university is take more and more of our start-up ideas into the market. We are really in the process of establishing what we call HBKU R&D Corporation, which we would like to be the arm of commercializing a great deal of our research and the products that our researchers and students are getting into as a result of their work.
What are your most strategic priorities for HBKU in the near future?
We encourage all our students to make a change, and that change does not need to be a product. Everyone thinks an innovator or entrepreneur must have product; however, sometimes changing a policy by itself is an important element that leads to business opportunity and advantages. We are trying to push our students, faculty, and researchers as hard as we can to take their discoveries, ideas, and work from paper publication into an actual business or community knowing that failure is the way of success. We will be there for them if they fail to get them to keep trying. At every possibility, we try to encourage innovation and entrepreneurial spirit and that interaction with the private sector and industry. We all live on the same planet so we have to share the same agenda.
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