U of C announces nursing school in Qatar

The University of Calgary will have a satellite campus in the Middle East by next August.

The U of C announced plans to open a nursing faculty in Qatar, an oil rich state in the Persian Gulf, Fri. Nov. 25. The project is expected to top $1 billion, and will be funded by the Qatari government.

This fall 40 Qatari students are enrolled. The program will expand to 100 students annually and offer both master’s and doctorate programs within 10 years, with likely expansion to other faculties.

U of C president Dr. Harvey Weingarten admitted the international branch will be an expensive undertaking but explained that Qatar will provide both the physical and financial resources to do it.

“The funding that we’re providing is through the people who are going to go there,” said Weingarten. “The important thing is that this doesn’t distract from the nursing education we do here, or from the nursing graduates. In fact, quite to the contrary, it allows us to graduate more nurses who have a certain kind of experience that they can get in Qatar and bring back and enhance the nursing profession here.”

Weingarten said Qatar is striving to bring both education and healthcare up to world-class standards, noting Qatar has had a partnership with the Texas A&M University for undergraduate engineering programs since 2003. Other partners of Qatar’s so-called ‘University City’ in the capital of Doha include Weill Cornell Medical College, Carnegie Mellon and Georgetown.

“[Qatar] and several other places in the Middle East are going through this process,” said Weingarten. “They can’t develop a post-secondary system as fast as their needs. So what they’ve been doing is partnering with universities around the world. In our case we were approached.”

Canadian and International education standards will apply in Qatar, said Weingarten.

“The students who go through [the Qatar] program are getting essentially the same education as a student would here in Calgary,” he said.

Students will consist mainly of Qataris who have completed a two-year English preparatory program, said nursing dean Dr. Michael Clinton.

Clinton said Qatari officials visited schools in the U.S. and Canada and offered favoured schools the opportunity to participate in a bid. The U of C made their bid and Clinton has worked on the agreement for the last two years.

Clinton said that the exact cost of the program is still confidential, but the Qatar program will have far more resources than the U of C.

“My guess is that the total spent by the state of Qatar is going to move into 10 figures,” said Clinton, noting the Qatar facility will have half the students in Calgary’s program, yet 10 times the space. “I [will] have more money come in Qatar to support 100 students than I’ve got at the U of C to support 1,000 students.”

He said increased resources, differences in culture which vastly increase the amount of space required and the need to have smaller classes­–both to ensure world-class quality and to teach students for whom English is a second language–all add to the discrepancy.

“Because of the cultural differences between Calgary and Qatar we need to make provision for such things as separate prayer rooms for male and female students,” said Clinton. “Separate restrooms, separate gymnasiums, separate swimming pools and wider corridors–all these things add to the space. Also, we will be teaching students in Qatar in groups no larger than 20.”

Clinton asserted the Qatar branch would not take away from the main U of C faculty. The Calgary campus is accepting nursing students in January for the first time, rather than the current single September start-date. There are also plans to expand the total number of students in the accelerated-track nursing program from 60 to 120.

He noted that although sending qualified individuals out of province to teach will not help Alberta’s nursing shortage in the short term, graduate students from Qatar can be encouraged to teach in Canada.

“We will be able to use the Qatar campus to do things that we can’t possibly do here,” said Clinton. “For example, we can recruit graduates with one or two years experience in clinical nursing. We can bring them out to Qatar. We can provide them with more clinical experience and at the same time we can induct them into instructing. We can actually pay for them to complete their master’s degrees, we can sponsor them to do their PhDs. We can increase their teaching experience and bring them back to Calgary so that they then become people who will be of interest to all Canadian universities to be recruited as faculty.”

He said Alberta lacks funding to pay nurses a salary while they are in school, and this may dissuade nurses from pursuing their studies past the undergraduate level.

“Here we have our graduates [and] they have their families,” said Clinton. “They have their mortgage to pay. They struggle to pay their tuition. They’re not given the opportunity to receive 60 or 70 per cent of their salary while they come to study at the university and we just freak them out with the workload. In Qatar we can do it differently because we have the resources to do it.”

Students’ Union nursing faculty representative Jenna Baumgartner said the satellite campus is an excellent opportunity for both Calgarian and Qatari students.

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