Newly published research by scholars from Virginia Commonwealth University School of the Arts in Qatar (VCUarts Qatar) and Georgetown University in Qatar (GU-Q) finds that Education City is uniquely placed to educate students for global competence and to prepare graduates to thrive in a more interconnected world. 

The research tackled the important role ‘internationalised’ higher education institutions play in shaping and transforming societies through experiential global learning.

The findings appear in a book chapter titled Current Understandings of Global Competency in Shaping Globally Engaged Citizens, which was co-authored by VCUarts Qatar Assistant Professor Dr Jacqulyn Ann Williams and GU-Q Assistant Dean for Curricular and Academic Advising Dr Christine Schiwietz. The chapter more clearly defines the role that global competence education must play in higher education reform.

Education City’s unique blend of programmes

In our globalised world, students need to be equipped with global competence. Dr Schiwietz explained that this refers to a set of skills, attitudes, experiences, and values around issues with local and global connections. She said that Education City is a visionary model and very unique across university branch campus programmes.

Intertwining world-class faculties across disciplines into a collaborative blend of programmes, courses and exchanges, she said that Education City offers an unparalleled mosaic for students to learn and flourish into global citizens. The system allows students to work collaboratively across cultures to solve shared problems, such as climate change, access to education, and conflict resolution.

Dr Williams said that while there is a broad consensus of the economic and political benefits of global education, research on global competency and more specifically, intercultural maturity in international higher education contexts, is limited.

Intercultural understanding studies typically focus on study abroad programmes, but this is the first of its kind for international branch campuses or IBC.

Their initial case study research, conducted over the course of a year and a half, surveyed administrators and faculty across three IBC institutions in Education City – GU-Q, Northwestern University in Qatar and VCUarts Qatar – to learn how educators shape the learning environment to facilitate the global competency and intercultural maturity of undergraduates.

According to Dr Williams, their research highlighted several important programmatic and campus conditions as well as educational practices that are conducive to promoting the global competence and intercultural maturity of undergraduates that may be applicable to other institutions seeking to further integrate and operationalise global and intercultural learning as strategic forms of internationalisation.

International experiences, backgrounds

Findings from their study indicated that students benefited from educators’ international backgrounds and experiences, particularly their established international networks and partnerships which were leveraged to immerse students and bring them into direct contact to learn from and with culturally diverse others.

As a result, many students in the IBC context viewed their own diverse backgrounds and lived experiences from a position of strength, according to Dr Williams. This is especially relevant to Qatar as the Qatar Foundation National Development Strategy includes a target of equipping all students with the knowledge and skills to contribute to society and to respect other cultures while maintaining a strong sense of their own values and identity.

The chapter appears in the book Leadership Strategies for Promoting Social Responsibility in Higher Education, edited by Enakshi Sengupta, Patrick Blessinger and Craig Mahoney (Emerald Publishing Limited, 2020). Dr Schiwietz’s forthcoming book, America’s Higher Education Goes Global: An Inside Look at the Georgetown Branch Campus Experience in Qatar is scheduled for release in early 2022.

Future research is planned to include additional branch campuses in Qatar as well as globally to gather a more nuanced understanding of how undergraduates understand themselves within broad social, cultural and global contexts and their development of intercultural competence.

Check out Marhaba’s FREE e-Guides for everything you need to know about Qatar.