Monitoring Quality in Arab Higher Education
The Higher Education Institutions’ Affairs Directorate at the Ministry of Education and Higher Education grants licenses to public universities in Qatar and supervises some aspects of private universities. (Currently there is only one public university, Qatar University, but the directorate could potentially license more.) Education City is responsible for the institutions inside that complex of foreign university campuses. Qatar University is responsible for its colleges.
The Standards for Licensing and Accreditation of Higher Education Institutions in the State of Qatar were issued in April of 2011. The standards cover nine main elements (for details of the regulations, click here):
- Mission, organizational structure, and institutional effectiveness
- Academic programs
- Faculty and staff
- Learning resources
- Facilities and equipment
- Financial resources
- Scientific research
- Integrity, transparency and professionalism in the work environment
In addition to these standards, another list of conditions and procedures controls the opening of a higher-education institute. According to officials from the Higher Education Institutions Affairs Directorate at the Ministry of Education and Higher Education, the main condition that universities need to meet is that: “The Institution to be licensed must be a branch of a respected and accredited university, and it must apply the methods of review and self-evaluation to its resources and educational programs. The Institution must also be subject to the same procedures and academic accreditation systems as its parent university.”
The directorate has begun receiving demands for licenses from higher-education institutions that do not meet the condition of having an international parent university and is now updating its regulations. There is no timeframe for completion of those updates.
An institution must renew its license after three years. The renewal process includes site visits. In addition, a self-study report must be submitted to the Ministry of Education and Higher Education. The determination of license renewal is then made based on performance and compliance with standards and conditions.
An educational institution is “not allowed to make substantive changes in the academic programs or change the degrees or diplomas offered unless and until written approval” has been obtained from the Qatar Office of Registration, Licensing and Accreditation (QORLA), an office within the higher-education ministry.
No direct regulation appears to prevent conflict of interest. But one of the conditions for the license is that: “The Institution must comply with all legal requirements in the State of Qatar,” and officials said those laws prevent conflict of interest.
Current regulations do not explicitly state that government officials cannot own private universities. However, the regulations state that: “Each higher-education institution must have a Board of Trustees. The majority of the Board of Trustees must consist of members who are neither shareholders nor have any other financial interest in the Institution, and shall include representatives from the community. The instruments of governance shall ensure a separation between the work of the Board of Trustees and the daily operation of the Institution.”
This language is supposed to prevent investors from having any control over the educational process at private higher-education institutions.
A new committee has recently been formed (as of fall of 2016) and is looking into the establishment of an independent agency for quality assurance. Upon approval by the cabinet of the establishment of this agency, the quality assurance of higher-education institutions will be separate from the licensing process. Licensing will remain under the authority of the ministry and quality control will go to the new agency. As of November of 2016, the agency had not yet been established.
Nine university branch campuses are inside Education City and three universities are outside the city.