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Doha’s Education City is oasis of academic freedom

Doha's 'Education City' is home to satellite campuses of some of the most prestigious universities from the United States. (Sam Agnew/flickr/cc)

In Doha, an academic experiment is underway that challenges local norms about education and free expression. Nick Anderson reports for the Washington Post that the tiny oil-rich emirate spends billions to lure outposts of some of America’s most prestigious universities.

Cornell, Carnegie Mellon, Northwestern, Georgetown, Texas A&M and Virginia Commonwealth are among the institutions to establish satellite campuses in Doha. All were promised academic openness and the opportunity to tap a new, lucrative market. Qatar benefits by attracting world-class talent, staking its claim as a learning hub and smoothing its transition to a knowledge-based economy.

For the universities, the relationship involves calculated risks. Qatar has been accused of censorship, suppression of political dissent and ties to groups the West views as terrorist organizations. Anderson interviews professors and students who concur that the promises of academic freedom are genuine, albeit with Islamic sensitivities. The universities also maintain that the benefits of their engagement in the region outweigh any downsides.  

Washington Post

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