Located on the protruding Qatari landmass on the northeast coast of the Arabian Peninsula, shares its only land border with Saudi Arabia and its other borders with the waters of the Persian Gulf. Despite being smaller in size than many of its neighboring countries, in recent years Qatar has seen a surge in wealth due to fuel trade. It’s now one of the world’s richest countries by GDP according to the World Bank, and is investing significant amounts in developing and internationalizing its higher education system.
To find out what it’s like to study in Qatar, read on…
In addition to its own homegrown institutions, Qatar is also home to many branch campuses run by overseas institutions. These are clustered together at ‘Education City’, a large campus built as part of the Higher Supreme Council’s education reforms, hosting branches of leading US universities including Cornell University’s Weill Cornell Medical College in Qatar, Georgetown University’s School of Foreign Service,Northwestern University’s Medill School of Journalism, the Carnegie Mellon University in Qatar, Virginia Commonwealth University in Qatar (School of the Arts) and Texas A&M University at Qatar.
Other institutions located within Education City include Qatar Academy, an International Baccalaureate school and branch campuses of the Canada’s University of Calgary and the College of the North Atlantic, leading European business school HEC Paris and the UK’s UCL. The Qatar Faculty of Islamic Studies is the only university in the City originally established in Qatar.
Not only is Qatar’s Education City a hub for international branch campuses, it also offers opportunities to build industry connections, through nearby facilities such as the Qatar Science & Technology Park, and the RAND-Qatar Policy Institute. The Qatar National Research Fund also supports research conducted in the City.
The World Innovation Summit for Education (WISE) was established by the Qatar Foundation for Science, Education and Community Development in 2009 with the aim of driving innovations across the academic landscape through debate on educational issues within Qatar and beyond.
Although it’s clear that Qatar isn’t short of academic opportunities, Qatar University stands out as the leader among homegrown universities in Qatar. In the latest QS University Rankings: Arab Region it’s ranked 9th within the region. It also features in the QS World University Rankings 2016/17, at joint 393rd – a good leap from the previous year’s position of 481-490.
Located on the northern outskirts of the nation’s capital, Doha, Qatar University is a public university currently home to around 16,000 students. The school’s academic programs are taught in both English (for natural sciences, engineering and business) and Arabic (for arts, education and social sciences) across seven colleges. These include the faculties of law, Sharia and Islamic studies, business and economics, engineering, pharmacy and education. Qatar University’s research facilities include laboratories, technical equipment, libraries, rare manuscripts and even a sea-faring vessel.
Of the current student body, around 65% are Qatari nationals and 35% are children of expatriates living in Qatar. A majority (70%) are women.
Home of the popular Al Jazeera television network and scheduled to host the 2022 FIFA World Cup, Qatar is a small country punching well above its weight on the international front.
Boasting one of the healthiest GDPs on the planet, Qatar’s wealth comes largely from oil exports; this trade alone accounts for 30% of the nation’s overall GDP. This means Qatar has massive purchasing power, while its continued economic development trumps even China. Following average economic expansion of 12.9% year on year from 2000 to 2010, it seems set to continue on this trajectory for years to come, thanks to the many billion barrels of oil yet to be pumped.
You’ll find Qatar to be a surprisingly diverse study destination, with immigrant workers from Southern Asia and the Philippines outnumbering Qataris by eight to one (the largest migrant to citizen ratio in the world). However, there are certain restrictions to bear in mind – notably a lack of freedom of speech. In recent years, this has led to the arrest and prosecution of poets and other liberal thinkers who have dared to question the state governance and religion.
In many ways, however, Qatar is in fact one of the less-conservative nations within the Arab region, with much to offer by way of culture and history. The Museum of Islamic Art in Doha is a perfect example of this, home to artwork spanning 1,400 years from across three continents. Other important cultural buildings in Qatar include the State Grand Mosque, the Sheikh Faisal Bin Qassim Al Thani Museum and the Islamic Culture Center.
Those who don’t mind being out in the heat may enjoy taking a stroll along Doha Bay’s famed Corniche promenade, taking a guided tour into the desert, watching some crazy dune-racing (from a safe distance!), or visiting one of a number of well-maintained family parks.
Doha is the capital city and gem of Qatar, continuing to develop at an astonishing rate into a gleaming, international city of trade and business districts and impressive skyscrapers. While rapid developments have caused some cultural disparity, Doha is a city which embraces both modernity and tradition, offering a rich tapestry of history, culture and an optimistic future. If Doha’s museums don’t quite do it for you, the city also offers a number of major sporting events, shopping malls (good for cooling off in), authentic restaurants and endless sea or desert views.
Other urban locations worth visiting while you study in Qatar include Rayyan, Al-Khor, Umm Bab, Abu Samrah and Wakra. If you fancy something a little different, head to Khor Al Udeid for some Mad Max-style desert dune racing, or to Zubarah to explore the ruins of the deserted city of Sheikh Abdu’llah bin Qasim Al-Thani.
To find out how to apply to universities in Qatar, you should visit the website of your chosen institution and read up on the application process and entry requirements for your chosen program. In many cases domestic and international students can now apply online through the relevant department.
At some universities there is regulation on the types of student who are eligible to apply. For example, at Qatar University only those with a valid State of Qatar residence permit or citizenship in a fellow Gulf country are eligible to enroll.
If you don’t yet hold a residence permit but wish to study in Qatar, visit the international student section of your chosen university’s website, where you may find assistance is offered to help you get a residency permit.
Tuition fees at universities in Qatar are set by each individual institution. Often, both Qatari and non-Qatari students pay the same fees. At some schools, such as the Education City branch of Texas A & M, sponsored students pay half the fees of non-sponsored students, with the full price set at 72,100 QR per semester (~US$19,800). There are generally two semesters per academic year (fall and spring).
If you study in Qatar at the Education City complex, and are a cross-registered student, you may be eligible to undertake additional courses offered by other universities in the City free of charge.
Some universities in Qatar charge fees per ‘credit hour’, with around 12 credit hours per semester. At Qatar University for instance, undergraduate arts programs cost 800 QR per credit hour, equaling 9,600 QR per semester (US$2,650), while engineering programs cost 1,000 QR per credit hour, totaling 12,000 QR per semester (US$3,300). If you are a prospective medical student you should expect significantly higher fees, starting at 60,000 QR a year (US$16,500) and climbing to 90,000 QR (US$24,700) in your fourth year and 120,000 QR (US$33,000) in your fifth and sixth years of clinical training.
Aside from the advantage of cheap petrol, living costs in Qatar aren’t the most appealing. Swift economic growth has caused accommodation and leisure costs to rocket, alongside the prices of transport to and from the nation. Due to the widespread import of food – estimated at around 90% of consumption – basic foodstuffs can also be fairly expensive. According to Numbeo statistics, you can expect to pay 21 QR (US$6 for a McDonalds meal, 40 QR (US$11) for a domestic or imported beer, 5.5 QR (US$1.5) for a loaf of bread and between 5,500 QR (US$1,500) and 8,350 QR per month (US$2,300) for a one-bedroom apartment, with the upper end of the price scale reflecting properties in Doha city center.
If you plan to study in Qatar for a short time only, tourist visas can be issued on arrival at Doha airport to citizens from a number of countries, including the UK, US, Australia, Singapore and Hong Kong. Citizens of fellow Gulf countries – Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Bahrain, Oman and the UAE – do not need a visa to enter Qatar. The price for a tourist 30-day visa is 105 QR (US$30), payable on entry into Qatar and often open for renewal before the 30-day period expires.
If you wish to stay longer than one month, or are from a country not on the list of eligible nations, getting a visa to study in Qatar may be more difficult. Qatari embassies are not authorized to issue visas, meaning a sponsor will have to complete the process for you. In many cases, your chosen university will act as your sponsor, so you’ll apply for your visa via the institution. If you are applying for a student visa through a sponsor, you may be asked to provide a birth certificate, a medical certificate proving good health, proof of funds to cover your stay and a clear police report.
For longer programs which require full student enrollment, this second route is the safest, as a tourist visa should technically not be used for any other purpose than tourism. In some cases the university may restrict enrollment to those who hold a residence permit. To get this you’ll need a sponsor, which is often the university in question. Visit the school’s international office for more information.
Compared to neighboring Saudi Arabia, Qatar is relatively liberal-minded in its approach to gender. Women are permitted to drive and non-Islamic women have the right to wear clothing other than the abaya (the full-length black gown commonly worn by Qatari women). However, modest dress for women of all faiths is essential; according to the Qatari Tourism Authority, clothing should cover the shoulders, cleavage, midriff and knees.
While married women are able to both work and exit the country freely, unmarried women may encounter difficulties in finding work without a sponsor or gaining a residency permit for an extended period of time, partly due to fears about safety.
Qatar also differs from Saudi Arabia in not being a teetotal nation, despite being home to a primarily Islamic population. The liquor may not run as freely as in the UAE’s touristy city of Dubai, but many international hotels, restaurants and bars do serve alcohol. However, if you would like to buy alcohol for private consumption, you’ll need to apply for an alcohol permit. This entitles you to shop at QDC, the nation’s only off-license.
The weather in Qatar ranges from a pleasant 21-25°C (70-77°F) in winter to a scorching 37-41°C (98-106°F) from May to September, with hottest temperatures seen in the month of July. Sun screen advised.
The main modes of transport you can use while you study in Qatar are bus or – and perhaps a limousine if you’re feeling fancy. Prices for the bus start at 4 QR (US$1). From 2010 conductors stopped accepting cash on board and now all payments must be made by using a Karwa Smart Card, which you can buy and top up before boarding.
While taxi services have been around for a while, the mobile app Uber launched in Qatar in 2013, offering an easy-to-use system where drivers can be at your location within 15 minutes. For security, all passengers receive a photo of their driver along with his/her name and official number.