What does UCL Qatar mean for staff and students?
24 October 2011
Thilo Rehren, Professor for Archaeological Materials and Technologies within the UCL Institute of Archaeology, has been one of the leaders of the development for UCL Qatar, particularly concerning the content and focus of its academic programmes. He talks more about the new campus and what it means for UCL.
Can you tell me about the nature of the Qatar collaboration?
We are developing, together with the Qatar Foundation, a plan for an
offsite campus which focuses on conservation, museum studies and archaeology.
This is part of a suite of campuses that the Qatar Foundation is bringing in
from all over the world, especially from North America at the moment, in order
to provide a comprehensive university education following the Western model in
Qatar, to serve not only the Qatari population, but also the wider region.
Is UCL’s involvement with this project unusual or unique in any way?
We are special in the Qatari market because we are the first ones to really focus on postgraduate teaching and research. All the existing American universities are primarily focused on undergraduate training, and do relatively little in terms of research, whereas UCL, as a typically research driven university, has a much stronger standing in that sense. There have been several instances in the Gulf region where universities have built up knowledge villages or research centres combining external universities – in that sense, Qatar is one of several. However, it is clearly the one that has put the most thought into it and the most resources –the ones who seem to have no problems practically whatsoever so far. By contrast, some other developments, in Abu Dhabi or Dubai, have had more difficulties.
What UCL strengths will UCL Qatar build on?
The Qatar agreement very clearly builds on UCL’s great strengths in conservation, museum studies, and in archaeology with a global view. It will have a focus on serving the local demand – the many museums regionally will need qualified staff working in all sorts of capacities, outreach, conservation and research. Qatar is aiming for the ‘Qatarisation’ of the workforce, since it currently relies heavily on imported labour – we can help to train the Qatari labour force. In addition to this, UCL’s Institute of Archaeology is probably the world-leading institute in this area. We have a very strong presence around the globe, and here we’ll focus mainly on Arab and Islamic archaeology. These are areas in which UCL is very good but still has room to expand, and we believe that this collaboration will enable us to that.
What practical impact will this agreement have on UCL staff and students?
UCL Qatar is meant to be a direct part of UCL, and our Qatari collaborators will want us to have UCL staff working in Qatar – including staff from the UCL Institute of Archaeology. For the students, there will be a high degree of networking between the degree programmes that we’ll be running both in Qatar and the UK, with the students moving between the two campuses for internships, special programmes and lecture series. So really UCL and UCL Qatar will be developing not separately, but together, as one homogenous and organic body.
How does UCL Qatar fit into UCL’s international strategy, its aspiration to make global citizens of its students?
It will help to develop students who would normally be restricted to living and studying in the Gulf region into global citizens. Often students do not leave the Gulf for cultural reasons – because they aren’t comfortable living and studying in a big city like London or because their families aren’t comfortable with them studying in the West. However, through UCL Qatar they will nonetheless be exposed to a lot of international influences and teachers.
What support will this initiative require from the UCL community?
The whole delivery will be heavily based on the expertise within UCL across the remit of UCL Qatar; in collections, conservation, archaeology and the sciences. We will need the involvement of colleagues across UCL to offer the full spectrum. Beyond that, we will need to be very well connected in the Gulf region for UCL Qatar to succeed – to develop networks not only with our own alumni but with colleagues working in the sector. Even before we’re in Qatar, building a network of active friends, supporters and alumni will be crucial – we need to spread the word that we are here and that we are open for business.