STRIKING THE RIGHT NOTE

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Blockade or not, a number of developments in recent months has once again proved that the education sector in Qatar continues to blossom. This time in our annual education spotlight, we focus on what has been making the headlines, and feature some of the universities that have redefined the country.

Going from strength to strength

As on numerous occasions in the years gone by, the month of September saw students in Qatar return to their respective schools after a lengthy summer break. And like always, there has been no shortage of action in the education sector, recently as well as in the early part of the year.

Qatar’s public works authority Ashghal announced the completion of the construction of 13 new schools and two kindergartens for the 2017/18 academic year, with the total value of the new educational buildings amounting to QR878,000,000.

Apart from that, it has been revealed that Qatar Foundation (QF) has given over $30 million over the past eight years to several schools in the US, which include the public school system of Tucson Unified School District, Oregon, and Washington Latin Public Charter School. The initiatives have been aimed towards encouraging the growth of Arabic programmes. The funding came through Qatar Foundation International, the foundation’s US arm. The organisation gave $3.8 million for 2017-18.

As part of efforts of the country’s Primary Health Care Corporation (PHCC) to promote school health services, Dr Badriya Al Malki, assistant executive director for continuing care and integrated services at PHCC, announced that 266 schools have been included in PHCC’s services. In addition, PHCC has started implementing the Electronic File System at 60 public schools for the 2017-18 academic year. The system provides a comprehensive overview of patient history during medical counselling.

In other news, a delegation from UNESCO was welcomed to Education City by HE Sheikha Hind bint Hamad Al Thani, vice chairperson and CEO of Qatar Foundation for Education, Science and Community Development, and Omran Hamad Al Kuwari, executive director, CEO Office, QF. During the discussion, Sheikha Hind discussed future plans at QF and the potential for collaboration opportunities with the 12-member international delegation.

And finally, indoor edutainment park KidzMondo expects to welcome around 1200 schools throughout the coming academic year. It is also part of the ‘By Education We Build Qatar’ theme, a part of the ‘Back to School’ campaign. KidzMondo has tied up with the Ministry of Education and Higher Education for the 2017/2018 academic year.

The spotlight on this issue’s Qatar Today is on Qatar University’s College of Medicine, ACS International School, and Carnegie Mellon University. We analyse what makes the three universities stand out from the rest. Check out the September edition of the magazine to find out more.

Shaping the future of healthcare

Since its establishment in November 2014, Qatar University’s College of Medicine (QU-CMED) has continued to deliver on its mission and vision to support Qatar’s growing health care sector and national strategies in health care, education and research. Working collaboratively with key health care providers and educators, the college is making valuable contributions to strengthening clinical practice, medical education and research in Qatar.

As part of its vision to be a driving force for innovation across the national health care sector, CMED has recruited an impressive number of international faculty members and researchers, as well as experts from leading health care organisations in Qatar, which are strong role models and inspirational mentors for Qatar’s future doctors.

In 2016, the college enrolled 93 new students to its batch of 2022, which began its journey towards the MD degree last September. This is an increase of 16% in the number of students who enrolled in 2015. At a rate of 62%, the majority (58) of the new additions are Qatari nationals.

A leading medical education provider

CMED puts the quality of education and its impact at the top of its priorities with the aim of making medical education with all its components and elements reach a level of international standards, and in order to train doctors who are able to achieve the best performance in the medical profession, whether inside or outside Qatar. The college’s learning strategy aligns with The Ministry of Public Health, Hamad Medical Corporation (HMC) and Primary Health Care Corporation (PHCC). It is oriented towards preparing students for clinical practice, with early exposure to the clinical environment to ensure that the students gain practical exposure and a deep understanding of real patients throughout the programme. Students from the second to the sixth year of the medical programme follow clinical placements complementing their learning within a clinical setting. Such early exposure to the clinical environment is not common. Medical students normally have their first clinical contact in Year 3. These opportunities help the students make sense of the knowledge they have acquired from studying at the university, allowing them to combine theoretical and experiential learning and to develop solid knowledge attainment skills that are rooted in experiential learning and based on a patient-centred approach.

Optimal learning environment

The learning environment at CMED aligns with international best practices in student-centred learning and promotes opportunities for educational innovation. Students are involved in active learning by enabling them to retrieve the information themselves and by engaging them in lifelong learning. The college adopts an interactive and engaging pedagogy that incorporates team-based learning, problem-based learning, self-directed learning and self-reflection, and potentially online and blended learning ‘flipped classroom’ models, as well as classroom teaching.

A unique medical programme

CMED adopted an interactive and engaging pedagogy, incorporating technology-based learning, which contributes to preparing students for the future and to shaping doctors for tomorrow. The college is also registered in the World Health Organization’s (WHO) international directory for medical schools; this registration strengthens its reputation and credibility.

One of the main features of the medical programme offered at CMED is its unique student-centred approach of using a blend of teaching and learning approaches that reflects the best practices in medical education, such as PBL, case-based learning, team-basedlearning, task-based learning and virtual patient learning. The study programme is divided into three phases: The first phase (Year 1) or ‘The Transition’ (Basic Medical Sciences), which is the interface between high school education and the integrated medical programme. It introduces the students to foundations in Human Anatomy, Physiology, Cell Biology, Biochemistry, IT, Medical English and Terminology and Core Curriculum courses. As an important component throughout a doctor’s career, a ‘medical education’ course that focuses on lifelong learning is also offered in this phase. In the second phase (following 2.5 years) or pre-clerkship phase (Integrated Organ Systems), the focus shifts to the foundations of medical sciences and its application to patients and population care. Clinical skills are mainly acquired at the clinical skills centre, using simulated patients and high fidelity simulators for clinical training. In the third phase (last 2.5 years), or ‘clerkship phase’ (hospital training), students rotate in clerkships (hospital training) in order to ensure exposure to clinical situations, patients and population care. During this phase, the students follow seven major rotations in pediatrics, and gynecology and obstetrics at HMC and Sidra Medical and Research Center; in surgery medicine, emergency medicine, and mental health at HMC; and family medicine at PHCC.

Enhancing Qatar’s health research

CMED focuses on research, especially in areas of national priority, covering the full translational pathway from basic science to applied health research with the aim to advance the health care sector in Qatar. CMED’s research agenda sits within the broader university-wide health research strategy, and aligns with both QU’s 5-year research roadmap and the National Health Strategy.

The college’s medical research includes four pillars: molecular medicine, clinical research, medical education and public health. The molecular medicine research aims to improve patient care by combining basic research excellence with innovations in clinical practice. According to the college’s research strategy, the objective is to shift to translational medicine in addressing major diseases such as diabetes, cancer, inflammatory, metabolic and neurodegenerative diseases, as well as infectious diseases, such as enteric pathogens causing diarrhea (e.g. Campylobacter), ulcer forming bacteria (e.g. Helicobacter), and several respiratory infections. In clinical research, researchers and biomedical scientists from QU Health Cluster are working closely with researchers across QU health programmes and from HMC, Sidra, PHCC and Weill Cornell Medicine-Qatar (WCM-Q) to combine basic research excellence with innovations in clinical practice. One of the college’s research focus areas is in medical education research, with a special interest in developing agreed standards of professional competence and ethics, and also the use of technology to enhance learning and teaching, especially simulation technology in medical education. In the area of public health research, the college focuses on five interdisciplinary themes – epidemiological studies on chronic diseases, health promotion and healthy lifestyle, health care delivery systems, evidence-based healthcare and health informatics.

CMED established partnerships with health care providers in Qatar, especially those under HMC and PHCC, covering the area of research collaboration and aiming to further contribute towards enhancing Qatar’s health research.

Promoting interdisciplinary collaboration

Following years of strong growth in all areas, QU has shifted its focus to drivers of excellence and best models for integration and cost effectiveness. In January 2016, The university established a Health Cluster, which comprises the colleges of Health Sciences (CHS), Medicine (CMED) and Pharmacy (CPH), and the Health Clinic.

The QU Health Cluster is the national provider of higher education in health and medicine. Through high-quality interdisciplinary programmes, the three member colleges prepare competent graduates capable of shaping the future of healthcare in Qatar. Among other benefits, the cluster contributes towards enhancing inter-professional learning opportunities for students, boosting interdisciplinary research, and to achieving cost efficiency through sharing courses, facilities and resources by members of the various related academic programmes of member colleges. In addition, the colleges leverage faculty expertise, share common resources, which include classrooms, laboratories, meeting rooms, lounges and equipment; and have shared strategic planning, joint outreach and engagement, and interdisciplinary graduate programmes. The cluster provides a healthcare systems professional educational system for the country and will be adding Physiotherapy (CHS) from this fall.

In May 2017, the cluster was awarded its first accreditation as Continuing Professional Development (CPD) provider by Qatar Council for Healthcare Practitioners (QCHP), part of Ministry of Public Health.

Ideas for shaping your world start here

Carnegie Mellon University (CMU) attracts a certain type of student: motivated, inventive, and driven to make a difference. Students come to Carnegie Mellon to learn, create and innovate with the very best. They leave with the passion, connections, credentials and lifelong friends who will help them change the world.

Work that matters

For more than a century, CMU has challenged the curious and passionate to imagine and deliver work that matters. A private, global university, CMU stands among the world’s most renowned educational institutions, setting its own course with programmes that inspire creativity and collaboration. Consistently at the top, Carnegie Mellon has more than 13,000 students and 100,000 alumni worldwide.

A world class education in Qatar

At the invitation of Qatar Foundation, CMU joined Education City in 2004 to deliver select programmes that will support and contribute to the long-term development of Qatar. Today, Carnegie Mellon University in Qatar (CMU-Q) offers undergraduate programmes in biological sciences, business administration, computational biology, computer science, and information systems. More than 400 students from 40 countries call CMU-Q home.

Programmes of study

CMU-Q offers undergraduate programmes that are ahead of the curve, in fields at the forefront of technology, innovation, scientific discovery and economic growth. All undergraduate majors require four years of full-time study, after which students earn a Bachelor of Science degree.

Biological Sciences: The undergraduate degree in biological sciences uses interdisciplinary approaches to provide students with intellectual breadth and depth of exposure to modern research biology. Students enhance their undergraduate laboratory learning through discovery-based research. The research experience helps students apply the critical thinking and problem-solving skills they learn in the classroom.

Business Administration: The degree in business administration is based on the CMU model of management science, developed more than 50 years ago, that emphasises analytical decision-making in complex business environments. The programme accentuates a quantitative, analytical approach to the core areas of accounting, finance, economics, marketing, operations, management information systems and business communications.

Computational Biology: At the forefront of scientific discovery, computational biology is driving advances in biomedical imaging, genomics and proteomics. CMU realised the potential early on, offering one of the first degree programmes in the field. A selective and rigorous programme, the curriculum is grounded in the disciplines of biology and computer science, with a strong component of physical science and mathematics.

Computer Science: CMU’s School of Computer Science is one of the world’s top-ranked programmes. For decades, CMU graduates in computer science have been driving powerful advances in the field. Throughout their education, students acquire skills that transcend technological trends. The programme provides the fundamental skills to develop new technologies: mathematical reasoning, algorithmic thinking and programming. A strong theoretical component provides the formal tools to remain current as technologies change.

Information Systems: From programming, to project management, to creating new ventures, the field of information systems uses technology to generate, process and distribute information. Information systems professionals work in a variety of settings to analyze how things connect and work together, whether virtual or real, from small processes to large organisations. They design new ways to address problems and challenges, and implement ideas that improve productivity and efficiency.

Learn by doing

Students at CMU-Q learn beyond the classroom through a slate of unique enrichment opportunities. Most students choose to study abroad during their four-year education, and many travel on academic trips that enhance classroom work. Students who intern receive on-the-job experience, which adds an important dimension to their undergraduate education.

Research is part of the fabric of a CMU education. Students engage in a wide variety of research endeavours, such as independent studies, senior and honours theses, summer internships, and funded projects as junior researchers.

Small campus, big spirit

The CMU-Q student body is exceptionally diverse, representing 40 nations. Students form a busy and active community, participating in clubs, organising large-scale events, traveling for service and academics, and competing in local and international contests. The low student-to-professor ratio means students receive unparalleled individual attention.

Graduates who make a difference

Graduates from CMU-Q are highly sought after: most choose careers in top organisations, while a significant number pursue graduate studies at international institutions. With ten graduating classes, the total number of alumni is nearly 700.

The CMU-Q alumni are a growing influence, with most working in the industry, government of Qatar, and across the region. You will find our alumni in organisations like Ooredoo, Qatar Airways, Qatar Shell, McKinsey and Company, KPMG Siemens and ExxonMobil. In the budding entrepreneurial sector in Doha, the CMU-Q alumni are a driving force, creating startups, mentoring current students, and contributing to an emerging community of young innovators.

Applying to universities across the globe

Students at ACS International Schools, which has three campuses in the UK and one in Doha, graduate to universities across the globe. Last year’s cohort will now be starting their fresher year at higher education establishments in Qatar, as well as Argentina, Australia, Canada, Japan, the Netherlands, Russia, Spain, the UK and the US, to name just a few.

Research conducted by ACS International Schools into the future pathways of its alumni revealed that almost all respondents felt that their international education had prepared them well for higher education:

“My academic time at ACS was the best possible launching pad for my future academic career. By the time I left ACS, I was so significantly further ahead, it put me at the forefront of consideration with every college and university I applied to.”

“The education that I received at ACS prepared me to excel in my academic pursuits in high school and university. The small class sizes and engaged faculty provided an environment that fostered my learning beyond most educational institutions.”

International schools are highly experienced in helping students apply to universities around the world and foster an environment where it is routine to consider global choices. At ACS, students aged 16 to 18 are supported by the school’s dedicated ‘university and college counsellors’, whose role is specifically to support students with their study skills and university applications. Many of the school’s counsellors have lived and worked in other countries, and most have worked within a university. Here are some of their insights students could consider when applying to universities around the world.

What are top universities looking for?

Top universities are looking for students to demonstrate key attributes such as an ability to think and work independently, a real passion for their chosen subject, and a positive attitude towards study. Research conducted by ACS amongst UK university admissions officers revealed these traits are undoubtedly universal, but there are also some important differences in what universities in different countries look for. American universities, for example, really value an entrepreneurial mindset and an ability to work well in groups. Yet most importantly, it is imperative that students think first about their own needs and learning styles, when choosing a university.

Shortlisting potential universities

When shortlisting potential universities, students should first find out how courses and modules are delivered and if it will suit their learning style. For instance, some universities deliver all their learning through lectures to 300 – 400 students, while others will opt for tutorials in small groups. Universities also differ in the number of contact hours each student receives with the teaching staff during a week, and some students might value individual attention more than general lectures.

Once students have identified if a university fits their learning style, there are other practicalities to take into consideration, e.g., how big is the campus? Extroverts may thrive in a large university while introverts might prefer a smaller campus setting. Are the right courses offered in the appropriate language? An increasing number of European universities offer all their courses in English, such as the leading Dutch universities, while many science and medical courses in Eastern Europe are offered in English.

Geography should also be taken into account; it might be important for some students to have quick access to family and friends and for some, even the weather might make a difference. Some people will like the extreme winter weather experienced in Boston, for example, while others will prefer to know that they will be studying in the year-round sunshine of the Gulf.

Reflecting on what students wish to gain from their time at university is essential as this will change depending on the university and country. Most US universities will guarantee accommodation on campus for every year of study, but students are expected to immerse themselves fully in college life. Contrast this with Qatar and many universities in European cities where a more ‘open,’ less intense campus experience is experienced. Similarly, if students do not yet have a clear idea of a career path or profession, they may prefer higher education in a country that encourages a trial of different subjects before committing fully.

Applications

Once students have done their shortlisting, it is time to consider the application process. Few countries offer a centralised system like the UK University and Colleges Admissions Service (UCAS), so it is important to check how university admissions work for each country.

In the US, France, Germany and Spain candidates apply to each university individually and could, in theory, apply to as many universities as they wish. Ideally, applicants should narrow down their choices to around six universities. It’s also important to be aware that the application cycle has shifted in countries such as Australia and Japan where the academic year starts in January.

In the US, because applications are decentralised, most schools advise their students to submit their applications by November, and regular offers are made in January or February. The decision deadline in the US when you must commit to a university is typically May 1, when your deposit for accommodation and tuition fees for the following year is required.