Broadening Qatari Post-Secondary Education Offerings Would Help Meet Future Employment Needs

For Release

February 12, 2008

Education and employment preferences in Qatar are not well aligned with the demands of the Persian Gulf state's labor market, and existing post-secondary educational offerings do not meet all of the nation's needs, according to a RAND Corporation study issued today.

Researchers found that many employers in Qatar are looking for individuals with some post-secondary education, supplemented with specific job training.

However, most Qatari men do not seek post-secondary education after completing secondary school because they lack the scholarships — and the grades that lead to those scholarships — to do so, according to the study from RAND, a nonprofit research organization. Men also do not seek additional education because of family responsibilities and the availability of stable, well-paying jobs in the Qatar government that do not require post-secondary education.

“Qatar can improve its post-secondary educational system in a number of ways, but educational policy alone cannot address the nation's labor needs,” said Cathy Stasz, RAND senior behavioral/social scientist, and lead author of the study. “The career choices Qatari citizens make are another part of the story.”

Qatar's Supreme Education Council asked RAND to analyze the current state of post-secondary education in the Persian Gulf state. The study was performed by RAND Education and the RAND-Qatar Policy Institute, a joint effort of RAND and the Qatar Foundation for Education, Science and Community Development, based in the nation's capital of Doha.

RAND researchers conducted surveys of secondary school seniors and recent graduates about their educational choices, and their employment goals — an uncommon technique in the Gulf countries. They also spoke with key public and private employers, and post-secondary education and training officials. In addition, researchers analyzed data from Qatar's 2004 census, two studies from the Qatar Planning Council, and information from the Qatar Higher Education Institute.

Stasz and her colleagues recommend that Qatari policymakers consider the following options to fill the post-secondary education gaps:

  • Establish a government-sponsored community college, to help students improve general skills and/or prepare for further education.
  • Recruit a top liberal arts college to Qatar, to provide a more diverse set of high-quality four-year degree options.
  • Develop an honors program at Qatar University to provide high-quality education in a traditional, gender-segregated educational setting. This will provide more options for high-achieving women who prefer to study in a gender-segregated environment or who will not study abroad.
  • Add master's degrees in high demand-fields to current offerings at Education City campuses, to provide a more diverse set of high quality graduate degree options.
  • Add more master's degrees in career-related fields to Qatar University programs.

Qatar has been working to improve all aspects of its educational system to better prepare its citizens for future economic and social progress, including sweeping improvements to its K-12 system. Qatar is a small nation with fewer than 750,000 residents, the vast majority of who are foreign workers that the country depends upon for both low- and high-skilled labor.

Few Qataris have the education or training levels required to perform high-demand, high-skill jobs. Current labor practices offer Qataris with no college education, particularly males, with secure, well-paid jobs in the public sector. These jobs account for nearly 77 percent of all employed Qatari citizens. Meanwhile, Qatari women are better educated than men, but have been less likely to pursue careers and in the past have had limited employment opportunities because of traditional preferences for single-gender workplaces. The study shows evidence that these traditional preferences are diminishing, opening many more opportunities for women in the future.

Qatar's post-secondary system includes Qatar University, the state-sponsored, four-year university, and several campuses operated in Qatar's Education City by foreign universities, including Texas A&M University, Carnegie Mellon University, Georgetown University, Weill Cornell Medical College, and the Virginia Commonwealth University School of the Arts.

Qatar has many post-secondary offerings for high-demand fields at the certificate diploma level and undergraduate degree, but has few programs at the graduate level in any field. There also are insufficient opportunities for Qataris who need additional education to succeed in a post-secondary program. The Higher Education Institute currently provides scholarships to 1200 Qatari undergraduate and graduate students to study abroad. Options for high-achieving students to study in Qatar are more limited, however, except for the undergraduate and graduate degree programs offered in Qatar's Education City.

Other authors of the report are Eric Eide, Francisco Martorell, Louay Constant, Charles A. Goldman, Joy S. Moini, Vazha Nadareishivili and Hanine Salem, all of RAND.

RAND Education conducts research and analysis on a variety of topics, including school reform, educational assessment and accountability, and trends among teachers and teacher training.

Copies of the report, “Post-Secondary Education in Qatar: Employer Demand, Student Choice and Options for Policy,” can be found on the RAND Web site at

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