SCHOOL’S OUT

Qatar 2020 | EDUCATION & RESEARCH | INTERVIEW

Ranked in the top-500 universities by the Times Higher Education, Qatar University improves students' academic success by supporting students throughout their academic lifecycle, from the pre-university stage to beyond graduation.

Hassan Rashid Al-Derham
BIOGRAPHY

Hassan Rashid Al-Derham is recognized for playing a major role in advancing research activity at both university and national levels. He assumed his current position in 2015. He was previously vice president for research, which won the largest percentage of grants in the National Priorities Research Program (NPRP) and Undergraduate Research Experience Program (UREP) under the Qatar National Research Fund (QNRF). He also served in several earlier roles at QU including associate vice president for research and the head of civil engineering at the College of Engineering. He holds a PhD and post-graduate diploma in construction project management from the University of South Wales, UK.

What have been the main milestones that the institution has achieved in recent years?
QU is a national university that plans to be a catalyst for the country's economic development. Over 20,000 students are enrolled in QU, with the largest number of Qataris enrolled in any of Qatar's higher education institutions. We are investing heavily in expanding our operations and are working with the Supreme Committee for Delivery and Legacy, the organizing body for FIFA World Cup 2022, in building sporting grounds inside the campus. We aim to improve students' academic success by supporting students throughout their academic lifecycle, from the pre-university stage to beyond graduation.

How would you summarize QU's model for higher education?
Over the past decade or so, QU has gone through different phases. We are calling the current phase, the 'transformation' phase, part of the new strategy from 2018-2022. In 2013, the university went through a major reformation process in terms of our programs, which took about six years. Now, we are facing a huge challenge that affects all higher education institutions at a global level, and the question is how to meet the needs of the workforce in the future. This is a big challenge that does not specifically apply to QU, but all higher education institutions. The challenge is how to meet the needs of the world, with advancements such as blockchain, AI, and fintech.

What is QU's answer to that challenge?
There are three ways: qualifications framework, education excellence framework, and finally a focus on student experience. As part of our main ambition to transform, we have several main strategies. Our main item is to grow alongside other higher education institutions, while having them grow with us. Secondly, we are aiming for excellence in education, which can help to ensure that students are competing to get a quality education that it is no less than any international education. Another important factor is finding ways to help our students continue learning once they complete their studies through graduate or PhD programs. Furthermore, we want to have a smart campus so that there is a strong connectivity to make a unique experience, which we call the digital transformation strategy. Another enabling strategy for innovation is to ensure that our university's graduating class has entrepreneurial skills, which we are building so that it gradually becomes natural for students.

What areas in research are you most focused on?
QU receives 60% of the Qatar National Research Fund's grants. The College of Engineering at QU, which is one of the most active engineering colleges in the Middle East, gets 20% of that fund. QU College of Pharmacy is one of the leaders in the MENA region and has been growing for the last eight years. Now, we want to focus on areas related to cybersecurity, wireless telecommunication, and health.

What are you doing to internationalize the university?
QU is ranked in the top-500 universities in the Times Higher Education (THE) World University Rankings. In addition, QU continues to be ranked first in the THE International Outlook Indicator category, an honor it has held since 2015, which is due partly to the ratio of foreign students in QU; around 30% of our students are foreigners. The majority come to study at the undergraduate level from the region, such as Africa and the Middle East, but we have students from all over the world. Another variable is the diversification of the university, as we have teachers from all over the world. And a third factor is collaboration with foreign institutions, where we have more than 400 collaborative projects in over 130 countries.