Interview: Ahmad Hasnah
Body copy To what extent should innovations in higher education be influenced by the employment market?
AHMAD HASNAH: Education is key for growth at both the individual and societal levels, and as educators we have a duty to teach students in a way that ensures they leave university as both well-qualified and well-rounded individuals. What university graduates require most is training in the skills necessary for them to compete in a highly competitive and ever-evolving global job market. We have to acknowledge that the best way of doing this is to produce graduates that have received an interdisciplinary education – this is something we are very mindful of when developing programmes at HBKU. I believe that by focusing on innovative courses that are in line with national and international needs, higher education can become the social and economic engine of a country.
What has been the most influential factor behind the rapid development of a first-rate higher education sector in Qatar?
HASNAH: In Qatar, the leadership of the country has been unequivocal in its support of building a strong, thriving education sector, with emphasis placed on higher education as the vanguard of realising the nation’s developmental aspirations. We are extremely fortunate that the emir, Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani, recognises the value of investing in the intellectual capacity of Qatar’s growing population, as did his father, Sheikh Hamad bin Khalifa Al Thani. This perspective has aided the nation’s move from a carbon-based economy to a knowledge-based one.
Two decades ago, Sheikh Hamad and Sheikha Moza bint Nasser established Qatar Foundation (QF). Since its inauguration, and with the creation of Education City, Sheikha Moza has personally ensured, as chairperson of QF, that education and research remain national priorities, leading efforts to make Qatar a centre for innovation, discovery and creativity.
In what ways does HBKU contribute to the higher education landscape of Qatar?
HASNAH: HBKU focuses on multidisciplinary postgraduate programmes, each of which is tailored to produce innovative outcomes in areas where critical gaps in knowledge exist, both regionally and across Qatar. In building our programmes, we refuse to be restricted by traditional academic and research boundaries. Instead, we endeavour to meet tangible needs so as to support Qatar’s fast-growing, emerging economy, as well as to prepare for future demands in areas such as energy, the environment, law, public health, computing, translation and biomedical research. We are also able to develop programmes that draw on the talent, knowledge and cutting-edge experience of experts from within the university’s three research institutes: Qatar Biomedical Research Institute, Qatar Computing Research Institute and Qatar Environment and Energy Research Institute.
How does HBKU plan to help meet challenges that arise in higher education in the future?
HASNAH: At HBKU we are steadfast in our belief that the focus of higher education in the region must be on university programmes and research projects that are inherently linked to society’s needs, thereby playing a direct role in a nation’s economic development. Innovative research should be in a progressive university’s DNA, and students should have the opportunity to directly participate in research wherever possible.
To create a successful research enterprise, we need to promote a research culture, not just in universities but across society, too. It is essential that we engage with communities to show how research education benefits them, while making research an attractive career path for the brightest minds. We are also ready to adapt to new ways of delivering education, and have learned that change should not be feared, but rather appreciated for its ability to enhance learning.
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