Mar. 26, 2015

Professor Sheikha Abdulla Al-Misnad


Professor Sheikha Abdulla Al-Misnad

President, Qatar University


Professor Sheikha Abdulla Al-Misnad is currently the President of Qatar University and one of Qatar’s leading educators. A distinguished alumna of Qatar University, she received a Bachelor of Arts degree in Education (1977), and subsequently a diploma in Education in 1978. She then enrolled in doctoral studies at Durham University in the UK, where she was granted the title of Doctor of Philosophy in Education in 1984. In 2003, Professor Al-Misnad was commissioned to lead a massive project to transform Qatar University, the national university in Qatar, into a leading regional institution of higher education. This was part of a comprehensive national education reform initiative encompassing the establishment of Education City, reforming the K-12 school system and advancing Qatar University. She has played a key role in the reform of primary, secondary, and private education in Qatar. As a Member of the Board of Directors of Qatar Foundation for Education Science and Community Development since 1999, she has also been instrumental in the governance and leadership of the educational institutions comprising Education City, foremost among which are Qatar Academy and The Learning Center.

Which recent accomplishments give you the assurance that Qatar University (QU) is improving its overall performance?

Among a number of performance indicators that include achieving international accreditation for most of our academic programs from prestigious international bodies, as well as international awards in several non-academic areas, and progress in offering new graduate programs, I would point to the exponential growth in QU's research output. This is not just to say that we are now conducting more research, but also that the quality and focus of this research is improving, especially after launching our ambitious five-year roadmap and research priorities. In 2012, a study found that QU has had a compound annual growth rate of 28.7% in research output between 2007 and 2011, making it the fastest in the Middle East in terms of research growth. The growth rate has since risen to 37.8%, and the number of publications in internationally peer-reviewed journals is climbing. We have also grown in graduate offerings, with 26 programs up from only four in 2008. All of this is to indicate growth in programs and research output both of which influence the quality and preparedness of our graduates. As the national university, this translates into value-added to both Qatar's knowledge-based economy goals and development in the country's vibrant job market. Employers have increased confidence in the qualifications of our graduates, and we enjoy growing support from a wide range of partners, many of whom have themselves provided training and internship opportunities during the students' tenure at QU.

Technology is completely reshaping the way the education sector operates. What is QU's strategy in addressing this development?

QU has embraced technology in all areas of its administrative, academic, and research infrastructure. We are conscious of the need to stay at the forefront of changing trends in teaching and learning technologies. We have implemented a series of tools to empower students in their learning and to provide faculty with technology resources that add value to their teaching approaches. We established a Chair in Technology-Enabled Learning as part of our mission to produce well-educated, technology-savvy graduates prepared to make the best use of evolving technologies in furthering their personal and career interests. In terms of online courses, we are following with interest the international debate on the effectiveness of distance education, and we will continue to assess this approach in line with our specific context. Our current philosophy is that for most subjects, the classroom experience cannot quite yet be matched by the virtual classroom. Additionally, the campus environment is enriching the students in many ways beyond academic education.

An interesting characteristic of the QU student population is the high rate of Qatari nationals and female enrolment. How do you interpret those numbers and how will it reflect on the future of Qatar?

Indeed nationals constitute around 60% of our student body, which is a good percentage considering Qatar's demographic profile. This is a result of attentive efforts by the university to prioritize nationals in the admissions process. As a public university, it is our focus to enable and empower our citizens. At the same time, we are mindful of the value of diversity in higher education and believe that accepting a select group of highly motivated non-nationals enriches both the classroom and student life. As for the gender divide, having more women than men in higher education is not exclusive to QU, but it certainly is more accentuated here. This phenomenon has been attributed to social and economic factors including the availability of other career paths for men that are generally less available to women such as the military, police, or studying abroad. We would like to see greater gender balance in higher education. This is a national challenge that we address in collaboration with the relevant government entities.