Northwestern University in Qatar

Northwestern University in Qatar (NU-Q) is Northwestern University’s campus in Education City, Doha, Qatar,[1] founded in partnership with Qatar Foundation in 2008.

Northwestern University in Qatar
PresidentMorton Schapiro
DeanEverette E. Dennis
CampusEducation City
ColorsPurple (official) and white (unofficial)
MascotWillie the Wildcat

Northwestern University's Qatar campus offers a liberal arts and media education with undergraduate degrees awarded in communication, journalism and strategic communication.[2][3]


Northwestern University in Qatar

Having been approached in 2006 by the Qatar Foundation for Education, Science and Community Development, Northwestern agreed the following year to open its campus at Education City.[4] The inaugural NU-Q Class of 2012 began studies in August 2008.[5] Additional classes have been added each year, and the university has established strong ties with local organizations, partnering with media groups and collaborating with a number of regional initiatives to generate additional educational and professional opportunities for its students.

A number of notable journalists, scholars, and media professionals have addressed students and faculty at Northwestern University in Qatar, including Fareed Zakaria of CNN's Fareed Zakaria GPS; journalist Evan Osnos of The New Yorker;[6] television journalist Tim Sebastian;[7] Iranian-American journalist Roxana Saberi; Carlos Van Meek, former head of output for Al Jazeera English; Arthur Sulzberger, publisher of the New York Times; Jeff Cole, head of the World Internet Project; Rami Khouri, editor of the Beirut Daily Star, and Sophia Al Maria, author and filmmaker.

The university graduated its first class in spring 2012.[8]

Academic ProgramsEdit

The curriculum leading to the award of the Bachelor of Science in Communication degree is based on that of the Northwestern University School of Communication at Northwestern's Evanston campus. Communication students at NU-Q pursue a major in Media Industries and Technologies, which combines elements of the Communication Studies and Radio/TV/Film majors offered at the Northwestern University home campus in the United States.[5]

Class at Northwestern University in Qatar

The curriculum leading to the award of the Bachelor of Science in Journalism degree draws on that of the Medill School of Journalism, Media, Integrated Marketing Communications at Northwestern's Evanston campus. This program is accredited by the Accrediting Council on Education in Journalism and Mass Communication.[9][10] Liberal arts courses are provided by Northwestern's Weinberg College of Arts and Sciences.[11]

NU-Q courses are modeled closely on those offered at Northwestern University campus in the United States, although adjustments have been made because the Qatar campus courses are taught in a 15-week semester system, rather than a 10-week quarter system.[12][13] Additionally, courses with particular relevance to the region are offered at NU-Q.[14] In 2012, NU-Q secured permission from the Board of Trustees to make its own academic appointments.[15] NU-Q's academic programs provide various opportunities for students to participate in international programs. Students in the Journalism and Strategic Communication Program are required to complete a junior year residency.[16] Juniors in the Communication Program are eligible to apply for the Evanston exchange.[13] Shorter international academic trips are offered at various times throughout the year. Past destinations have included Turkey, Switzerland, Italy, South Africa, France, India and the USA. All students are eligible their sophomore year to apply for a one-week trip to the Northwestern University Evanston campus, which takes place in May of each year.[17]

Northwestern University in Qatar campus

NU-Q students can access courses at the five other American universities located in Education City.[18]

Northwestern's Qatar Campus is one of the best journalism and communication schools in the world. Degrees awarded by Northwestern University's Qatar campus are accredited by the Higher Learning Commission of the North Central Association of Colleges and Schools.

Pre-College ProgramsEdit

NU-Q offers an annual summer media program to high school students combining aspects of the Journalism and Strategic Communication and Communication Programs. NU-Q also offers workshops to high school students periodically throughout the school year.


Similar to other universities with campuses in Education City, Northwestern's facilities are entirely paid for by Qatar. In 2014, Northwestern received $45.3 million to run the Doha campus.[19] Also like other Doha campuses of U.S. universities, Qatari students at Northwestern have their tuition covered by Qatar. Students of other nationalities either pay for their own tuition or can sometimes receive scholarship money. As of 2016, tuition for the school is about $52,000 per year.[20]

The University's fully automated newsroom features some of the most advanced technology in broadcast and production.


NU-Q's permanent home in Education City was designed by American architect Antoine Predock. Predock traveled around the world, deriving inspiration from desert structures to give NU-Q's new building a look and feel appropriate to Qatar's culture, climate, and location.

Northwestern moved into its permanent facility in January 2017.[21] The four-story building is more than 500,000 square feet and has achieved a LEED Gold Certification.

The university also opened The Media Majlis at Northwestern University in Qatar, the first museum in the Arab world dedicated to exploring the content of media, journalism and communication, and is Qatar's first university museum. [22]

Located on the NU-Q campus, the bilingual (Arabic and English) museum features interactive exhibitions, discussion programs and other projects examining media, journalism and communication through global, regional and local/Qatar lenses.  An inaugural exhibit examines a century's worth of film history as shaped by notions of Arab identity. The Media Majlis offers free admission to students, faculty and the public.


In 2013, NU-Q launched the school's signature research project, an annual survey of media use in the MENA region. Media Use in the Middle East in 2013,[23] 2014,[24] 2015,[25] 2016,[26] and 2017,[27] as well the report, Media Industries in the Middle East, 2016,[28] revealed regional attitudes about government censorship, press freedom, the morality of content, entertainment preferences and overall consumption habits, as well as provided an overview of the most prevalent business models across the MENA media landscape. NU-Q's research has been cited by academic institutions and think tanks (e.g., USC Annenberg School Center for the Digital Future,[29] Brookings Institution[30]) as well as news media outlets (e.g.,Christian Science Monitor,[31] CNN,[32] The Atlantic,[33] Al Jazeera,[34] Al-Arabiya[35]) around the world.

Students and Student LifeEdit

Approximately half the student body is Qatari; however, regardless of passport, many students come from Qatar, representing 32 nationalities across the student body. There are about 300 students enrolled in the school.

NU-Q has worked to integrate some western values into its Qatar campus. For example, there are many female students that attend NU-Q. There have been some concerns that this integration, which is not as common in Qatar can be slightly difficult to implement. Qatar adheres to Salafism, which is one of the most fundamental sects of Islam and dictates all aspects of society and life in the country.[36][37]

NU-Q students have access to the full range of student activities offered to all Education City students, including the Hamad bin Khalifa University Student Center, Recreation Center, clubs, organizations and athletic leagues.[38]

NU-Q is the host of many film and production related events, such as THIMUN Qatar Northwestern Film Festival and the NU-Q Student Media and Research Award].

Students also participate in a wide variety of leadership, service and experiential learning initiatives both in Doha and internationally.

In addition, students have access to and participate in a range of athletics, activities, and clubs.

Students in the FieldEdit

Northwestern University in Qatar campus

Student have tackled subjects that are considered controversial in Qatar and throughout the Middle East. One NU-Q graduate was nominated for a student academy award for his film,100 Steps, which tells the story of a young boy in Pakistan who finds that his local religious school has served as a front for a radical extremists’ recruitment camp.[39] Convict of 302, a documentary by two NU-Q students about Pakistan's death penalty and anti-terrorism laws, screened at a consortium sponsored by the Pulitzer Center on Crisis Reporting in Washington, DC.[40]

Students have also written stories about working conditions at local development sites in Qatar, domestic abuse[41] and women's issues.

Another NU-Q graduate, Ismaeel Naar, was named Outstanding Young Arab Journalist of the year in 2016.[42]


Journalism juniors spend ten weeks working in a professional organization somewhere around the world. Assignments have included the Financial Times, National Geographic, Huffington Post, Grayling Public Relations, Qatar Foundation International and Vogue.The goal of the Journalism Residency is for students to get the kinds of hands-on experience that helps them develop new skills, test old skills, work under deadline pressure, hone their news judgment, sharpen their fact-checking and research skills, build confidence in their capabilities and explore new career paths not previously considered. This is a required component of the B.S. in journalism degree program.

Academic Trips

This program is open to NU-Q students and assists them with learning about how organizations work in other countries. Previous trips have included Turkey, Switzerland, Italy, United Kingdom and the United States.

Service Learning and Leadership

NU-Q students can participate in annual Spring Break Service Learning Trips to global destinations. The goal of the trips are to connect students to the needs of the larger worldwide community, provide insight and understanding of the historical and socio-political context of the visited country, and build a strong sense of global citizenship and commitment. Students complete assigned projects and reflections as part of the experience. Trip destinations have included Brazil, China, India, Morocco, South Africa, Tunisia, Zambia, and more.

Evanston Exchange

Students who are a pursuing the BS degree in communication can participate in the Evanston Communication Exchange Program during spring semester of their junior year, where they study at Northwestern's home campus, located near Chicago in Evanston, Illinois, USA.


The leadership of NU-Q is appointed by the Northwestern University Provost, in consultation with the Qatar Foundation.[43] Craig LaMay is the acting dean. An educator, author and media expert, NU-Q's dean Dr. Everette E. Dennis was appointed in June 2011. The founding dean was Dr. John Margolis, an associate provost at Northwestern University who served from 2008 to 2011.[44][45] Gregory Ferrell Lowe is director of the Communication Program. Mary Dedinsky is director of the Journalism and Strategic Communication Program. Hariclea Zengos is senior associate dean for research. Kathleen Hewett-Smith is director of the Liberal Arts program.[46]

The NU-Q staff provide the range of support services expected in an American college or university, including professionally staffed offices for admissions, academic and personal counseling, student activities, student records, information technology, human resources, finance, marketing/public relations, and facilities.[47] The collections of the professionally staffed NU-Q library focus on media issues, and students and faculty also have access to all electronic resources available at the Northwestern University Evanston campus and to the services of inter-library loan.[48] A production facilities department provides support for the media-intensive work of students and faculty at NU-Q.[49]


There are 38 faculty members at NU-Q.

Many of the faculty and instructors at NU-Q are not tenured which puts some limits on academic freedom for the professors. This leaves these professors answerable to the NU-Q Dean, a situation that is not dissimilar to faculty members at Northwestern's Evanston Campus. In Qatar, however, a report by Stephen Eiesenman, former President of Northwestern Faculty Senate, pointed out that the Dean has much more authority than in the United States. Additionally, if a faculty member is no longer employed by NU-Q, they must leave the country, forcing them to uproot their lives there, a situation which no doubt puts pressure on the faculty member to work within the confines of a more limited set of academic and intellectual freedoms. Additionally, faculty members at NU-Q are not eligible for tenure unless they are visiting from the Evanston or Chicago campuses.[20]

Many professors at Doha campuses of U.S. universities are incentivized to trade in their teaching positions in the U.S. for ones in Qatar with a salary premium, housing arrangements and research funding.[19]


In addition to its core mission of providing undergraduate education to its students, NU-Q seeks to serve as a regional center for issues related to communication and journalism.[50] Often in collaboration with local, regional, or international organizations, NU-Q sponsors seminars and colloquia on topics related to the media.[51] NU-Q also sponsors short, non-credit programs for pre-college students, which are designed to expose them to developments in media.[52]

Outside of the NU-Q and Education City communities, freedom of speech is highly limited and anyone who threatened “social values” or Qatar's “general order” through any forms of news, photos, videos or audio recordings can be sentenced to prison. A report by the former president of the Northwestern University Faculty Senate conducted during his tenure as president highlighted that these implicit community values seem to be ingrained in the students, who seemed to willingly comply with these restrictions both intentionally and unintentionally.[53]


NU-Q has undertaken several initiatives in media education and community outreach. In 2013, NU-Q began the biannual Qatar Media Industries Forum (QMIF), bringing together top representatives in publishing, electronic media, digital media, public relations and advertising to discuss and assess the present and future of Qatar's media landscape.[54] In 2012, the school also established separate partnerships with the Doha Film Institute[55] and Al Jazeera Network.[56] NU-Q also partners with the Qatar Computer Research Institute.[57]


Northwestern, as with all other U.S. universities with campuses in Doha has been the subject of ongoing criticism of whether a campus in Doha is an appropriate endeavor. In an interview with Gulf News Journal, Herbert London, president of the London Center for Policy Research and a senior fellow at the Manhattan Institute, said “universities I think have compromised themselves” by having campuses in a country like Qatar where academic freedom and freedom of the press are severely limited.[58]

Along with other universities with campuses in Qatar, Northwestern has received criticism for accepting money from Qatar due to their alleged support of terrorism worldwide and their abysmal human rights record, especially in the lead up to the 2022 World Cup. Some question if universities who profit from campuses in Qatar are thereby complicit in Qatar's alleged sponsorship of terrorism and human rights abuses.[19][59][60]

Freedom of SpeechEdit

Concerns have been raised over whether journalism can be taught effectively in a country with limited freedom of expression and where reports of censorship arise from time to time. Additionally, some members of Northwestern's faculty have expressed “dissatisfaction with the academic and free speech protections”. In an interview with the Washington Post, former Northwestern Faculty Senate President, Stephen Eisenman, said that “teaching journalism as an enterprise in which you must first learn what not to ask, is no kind of journalism instruction at all” and continued that at NU-Q this was “likely a matter of encouraging some enquiries and making others strange, awkward, rude or unserious”.[19][53][53][61]

In an article by The Washington Post, Susan Dun, an assistant professor of communication at NU-Q said that some professors do exercise caution with statements, written work, or speeches that may reach a wider audience than just the Education City community.[62]

Mohanalakashmi Rajakumar, who taught English at Northwestern, VCU and Georgetown in Qatar published a book called “Love Comes Later” that was banned by Qatar in 2015 with no explanation due to the country's strict censorship policies.[19]

Students at Northwestern have said that they face challenges due to the lack of first amendment rights protecting the media. Students have been harassed and intimidated when trying to capture images that would be considered routine or not offensive in the U.S. Some faculty members maintain that this teaches students persistence and creativity in overcoming obstacles to report on a story.[19]

Everette Dennis, the dean of NU-Q led a six-nation survey in 2015 that was financed by the Qatar National Research Fund and asked questions such as if people think their country is “headed in the right direction”. While the UAE, Egypt, Tunisia, Lebanon and Saudi Arabia all had answers to the question, there was no data from Qatar as the government blocked the question from being asked to survey participants.[19]


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External linksEdit