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Interview

with Mazen Hasna, Dean, Qatar University – College of Engineering

08.10.2012 / Energyboardroom

Can you tell us what was the vision behind the creation of the college of engineering back in 1980?

Qatar is a country with an economy that is mainly based on hydrocarbon. Engineers are known to be the main players in this industry. It was very natural that a college of engineering should exist and that engineering education should start in Qatar. The main vision in establishing the college was to support the economy and main industry in Qatar.

Can you briefly present us the portfolio of academic programs that you have at the college of engineering, and tell us how significant is the college of engineering among the Qatar University?

It started in 1980 with 4 programs, available only to male students — electrical engineering, mechanical engineering, civil engineering and chemical engineering. In 2003 it was opened to female students to pursue programs in systems engineering and computer engineering. Today we offer eight undergraduate programs, seven Master’s and twelve PhD.In establishing these programs, we were responding to the needs of the labour market for skilled graduates who can contribute to the development of the country.

In terms of numbers, the college of engineering is ranked either 2nd or 3rd among the whole university, with the College of Arts & Sciences having the largest student population; in terms of visibility, research, funding, attraction, we are extremely strong and leading within QU.

Through all the interviews with CEOs of the Oil and Gas industry we have conducted, the main challenge that was touched upon by all of them was the shortage of skilled people in the petroleum field. How is Qatar University willing to address this issue in terms of training and how are you raising leadership among future Qatari engineers?

The College has for many years placed outreach to high school students as one of its top priorities. Through several initiatives, we have raised interest in the science and engineering field among high school students in Qatar. Our Life is Engineering Program (LIEP) is one such initiative that makes science and engineering more interesting to Qatari youth and encourages their awareness of their role in contributing to the country’s development. We partner with leading industrial companies in Qatar for their input and expertise to pass on to the students and provide hands-on experience to build their skills. Internships and on-site training is a very important part of our programs – not only do the students learn more about the area of the industry where they are interning but they also learn other important life and work skills such as leadership, organization, interpersonal communication, networking, and teamwork.

We are not only growing skilled engineers but responsible and resourceful individuals who will lead Qatar’s future.Our intake has increased as a result of the programs we have been running. I can claim that we were successful in raising the number of students enrolled in our engineering programs over the past few years. Engineering is often viewed as a challenging discipline — students tend to lean more towards business and arts disciplines. Here at college of engineering, we continue to seek ways to attract more students to the science and engineering field and our programs highlight the wide-ranging and exciting areas that both male and female students can pursue.

How significant is research among Qatar University and how are you willing to contribute to the development of the oil and gas sector in the country through the research aspect?

Research is hugely important to the academic environment of the college which is in line with the objectives of the overall QU Strategic Plan. The College is committed to developing a strong research culture. We ensure that our programs engender research that seeks solutions to the needs and concerns of the wider community. This is very important because we are aware of our role in contributing to the social and economic development of Qatar.
Our commitment is further reflected in the successes we have enjoyed in award grants from Qatar University and Qatar National Research Fund, and the oil and gas industry for our research initiatives.. Currently we are managing more than 100 million dollars for QNRF-awarded projects. Based on our current capacity and the needs of the country, there are two areas that we identified in terms of growth and potential: renewable energy, and alternative sources of energy. At the college, we set up a lab for renewable energies because we saw that it is an area of high potential in Qatar and worldwide.
We have established a number of strategic Chair positions with the view to addressing these and other areas. We harness expertise to guide related research programs as well as provide opportunities for our national students to gain relevant skills to enter the ranks of the leading industrial companies in Qatar.
Today, we house Chairs sponsored by QP, Rasgas, Qatar Gas, Maersk Oil, Oryx GTL, and Kahramaa-Siemens. This has been a very good scheme and we expect to add more Chairs to our portfolio in the near future.
For the long-term, we will review our programs and hone our research targets to reflect those expressed in the national vision 2030. We are seeing a number of areas such as the fertilizer and petrochemical industry where research and knowledge can be created and we can contribute to this.We believe that our engineers should be able to apply their skills not only to the oil and gas industry because, as Qatar develops into a knowledge-based economy, they can build their careers in a wide range of professional sectors.

What would you define as the college of engineering strengths? Your main competitor is Texas A&M do you compete or complete each other? How well are you ranking internationally?

Our strength is that we are part of the country’s first and only national university and stand at the heart of the country’s national identity. We are the main providers of engineers to the Qatar labor market. Our graduates are sought-after by the leading companies in Qatar and some are returning to the college as faculty to reenergise its culture of quality and excellence. We do not view Texas A&M as a competitor; collaboration is important to us as it is added value to what we do. We have several collaborative research and academic projects with Texas A&M and envisage that we will continue these collaborations.

We are very confident that we are doing well from an academic point of view. We are also very proud of the international accreditation awarded the college by ABET. We were one of the first colleges in the region to receive this recognition from ABET to its programs. This international recognition highlights the quality of our programs, faculty and our overall teaching/learning environment.

As a final message, where would you like to take Qatar University in the next 5 years and what is your assessment for the future of education in Qatar?

We are guided by the University’s Strategic Plan which is aligned to the National Vision 2030 and the National Development Strategy 2011-2016. The country’s development continues on a fast track and the World Cup 2022 is also driving the momentum. As the college of the first and only national university, we will continue to be among the leading contributors and participants to where the country is heading. Our programs and initiatives will continue to be guided by the needs and aspirations of the wider community. Finally, we are extremely proud of the confidence placed in us by students, parents, and our partners and envisage a very bright and successful future for the college as it continues to develop in keeping with the pace of the country.

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