In Qatar’s Education City, U.S. colleges are building an academic oasis
The Washington Post spotlights Northwestern University in Qatar and Education City.
[Excerpt:] Northwestern University came here to teach journalism and communication, a tough assignment in a country with tight controls on public speech. It was the latest in a series of prestigious U.S. universities the wealthy emirate lured to a monumental complex on the desert’s edge, called Education City.
Terms were generous: Academic freedom guaranteed, world-class facilities, expenses fully covered. All Northwestern had to do was build a program on par with those at its home campus outside Chicago, and award degrees here bearing its name.
“It was a good deal,” said Everette E. Dennis, Northwestern’s dean in Qatar. “No financial risk. The only risk was reputational.” A university home to the renowned Medill School of Journalism would not want to lower standards to satisfy the whims of sheikhs 7,000 miles from Lake Michigan.
Cornell, Carnegie Mellon, Georgetown, Texas A&M and Virginia Commonwealth universities all struck the same bargain with Qatari leaders. A foundation the ruling family created has spent billions of dollars over 15 years — the six U.S. branches receive a total outlay of more than $320 million each year — to import elite higher education in specialties from medicine to foreign service, engineering to fine arts, enabling Qataris to obtain coveted U.S. degrees without leaving the Persian Gulf.