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Friday, April 16, 2021

HBKU amends university scholarship criteria to reward ‘loyalty’ to Qatar

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Education City

With reporting from Ankita Menon

In a move aimed at recognizing “loyalty” to Qatar, Education City officials have adjusted the criteria for merit-based scholarships to favor university students who were born or grew up in Qatar.

Scholarship applicants with those strong residency ties to Qatar would receive additional points on their application process.

The move by Hamad bin Khalifa University (HBKU), which oversees Education City and falls under Qatar Foundation, has drawn the ire of some students and sparked an online petition – which has so far garnered 50 signatures – that argues international students coming from abroad will have drastically reduced chances of receiving a scholarship.

According to the petition:

“The HBKU Merit Scholarship is most often cited as the primary reason students choose to come to EC from abroad. With that option no longer available to them, universities in EC will no longer be able to attract the caliber of international students it has been able to in the past.”

HBKU did not respond to repeated requests for comment.

Students typically become eligible for the HBKU merit scholarship after their first year of study.

Because of this, the petition states that the changes are especially unfair to students who enrolled in EC universities last year with the understanding that they could compete for a merit-based scholarship this fall, on an equal footing with their peers already residing in the country.

The changes do not affect other forms of monetary assistance, such as loans given to students in financial need, or entrance awards.

Expats in Qatar

HBKU’s shift comes amid an ongoing debate in Qatar and across the Gulf over extending certain residency benefits to long-time expats in lieu of citizenship, which these countries typically do not grant to foreigners.

Regardless of how long they’ve lived in Qatar, expats must continually renew their residency permits, which are tied to employer sponsorships, and are at risk of being forced to leave the country at any time.

In some regards, the changes in the program reward expats. Additionally, many other nations have policies aimed at retaining and attracting young and educated graduates who have ties to the country.

However, critics of the new scholarship standards argue that the new changes in criteria could discourage bright international students from considering attending university in Qatar.

Speaking to Doha News, Ahwaz Akhtar, a sophomore studying international economics at Georgetown University School of Foreign Service in Qatar, said:

“The change in criteria only reflects one of the many criticisms of Qatar: your skills and qualifications are not always the most valuable asset you have.”

Akhtar said he received a scholarship worth $44,280 to cover his tuition fee last fall and would not be affected by the changes as the financial award will be automatically renewed if he maintains a 3.6 GPA, but added that the changes still bothered him.

“It’s time HBKU went back to rewarding merit because it’s the best way to ensure that the culture of knowledge creation takes hold in Qatar,” he said.

Meanwhile, Northwestern University in Qatar said it has heard the objections of its students and is “concerned” by the changes. Speaking to Doha News, spokesperson Paul Reilly said the school has voiced its apprehensions to QF and HBKU.

Several other schools contacted by Doha News either did not return messages or referred inquiries to HBKU.

Uneven footing

Under the new criteria, scholarship applicants can receive up to 20 points on a 100-point scale in recognition of their “loyalty (to) the state of Qatar and their willingness to work/live in Qatar and contribute in return.”

Specifically, students will receive five points if they were born in the country and up to 15 points depending on how long they’ve lived in Qatar.

Applicants are also eligible for an additional 10 points for their “contributions to Qatar society.”

Students with a parent working at QF, HBKU or one of its subsidiaries automatically receive an additional 10 points. Applicants also receive points, to a maximum of 10, for the number of credit hours taken during the previous academic year.

The weighting is heavily tilted towards academic merit, with up to 50 points available to students with a high GPA. Critics, however, point out that this is unlikely to be a deciding factor as students must have a minimum GPA of 3.6 to apply for the scholarship.

This means that all eligible students will receive a minimum of 45 out of 50 points in this category, making it more likely that residency points will determine who receives a scholarship.

Here’s the criteria:

Thoughts?

22 COMMENTS

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Mayette
Mayette
7 years ago

So let me see… in the states they give priority to those from their state then to those outerstate and then to those internationally with obvious differences in tuition. Ssame goes to europe.

So why is the reporter making it seem like an atrocity against humanity?

Ivan Brendieswski
Ivan Brendieswski
7 years ago
Reply to  Mayette

I am familiar with what you say for fees such as tuition, like you mentioned, but not for scholarships, which are a very different beast. Can you provide specific examples?

Abdulrahman
Abdulrahman
7 years ago

I can; the University I went to in the U.S. back in the late 90s. There was a program that gave scholarships to people of color (aka visible minority :p) but foreigners were not included in that program.

In fact, that university, one of the top 55 in the U.S., charged more for foreign students than they did their own.

Ivan Brendieswski
Ivan Brendieswski
7 years ago
Reply to  Abdulrahman

Yes, I also paid foreign student fees in the US in the 90s and didn’t have a problem with it as my tax money ( or tax money of my family) hadn’t gone to support the university, so it seemed fair. I think that portraying this as a ‘loyalty’ program is misleading is my point, not the nature of the program per se.

Mayette
Mayette
7 years ago

Seen it being implemented on a scholarship level all over the world. You have local scholarships and international ones applicable in the same manner. You even have specific scholarships with certain nationalities (my university had strong ties with China and we had special China int. Scholarahips)

Ivan Brendieswski
Ivan Brendieswski
7 years ago
Reply to  Mayette

Mmm, I don’t disagree with you there, and then you have the scholarships aimed at members of certain alumni groups, graduates from certain towns, etc. That’s not quite the same thing as ‘loyalty’ though, which seems quite different from place of birth and what not.

I could understand the phrasing if it were a scholarship program aimed at the children of mercenaries who have served the Qatari colours for more than 10 years or something; that would be a true ‘loyalty’ scholarship.

Mayette
Mayette
7 years ago

Let’s remove the word “loyalty” and focus on what opportunity this is giving to those whom have been in Qatar for generations without a passport to show for it. For once that part of the population is getting a break

Ivan Brendieswski
Ivan Brendieswski
7 years ago
Reply to  Mayette

Fully agreed, those folks are vital for Qatar’s future and are finally getting the encouragement that they need.

Abdulrahman
Abdulrahman
7 years ago
Reply to  Mayette

It’s just a common style of reporting here on Doha News. Come to think of it, sometimes even the local newspapers do it when we have new regulations and as such! I guess it’s a Qatar thing, many people have big feeling of self-entitlement 🙂

Shabina921
Shabina921
7 years ago
Reply to  Mayette

I see what you’re saying. I think the point that the students are trying to make is not that they’re entitled, but that the rules were changed on them suddenly and this will dramatically affect their university matriculation.

Also, this is in the story:

“In some regards, the changes in the program reward expats. Additionally, many other nations have policies aimed at retaining and attracting young and educated graduates who have ties to the country.”

Mayette
Mayette
7 years ago
Reply to  Shabina921

Rules changing suddenly, quite new to Qatar!
To correct the above: it rewards local non nationals that have been part of the community for decades while taking from those that haven’t.

Nope, dont see preference to expats

disqus_21uQ1hXhE0
disqus_21uQ1hXhE0
7 years ago
Reply to  Mayette

I thought the reporter seemed fairly neutral. He did quote the aggrieved students extensively, the university, and then explained the point system. Fair play.

That being said, I disagree with the student that they quoted. Admitting students on “merit” disregards social systems at play, and I think it’s a positive step that the Qatari government treats the young people who grow up here as assets, not threats.

MIMH
MIMH
7 years ago

So these people came to study in Qatar not for the education but in the hope of a free handout? Seems like they have learnt one of life’s lessons and there is no price on that….

DavidRSS8
DavidRSS8
7 years ago

Seems reasonable to me. Foreign students coming from abroad are not be excluded from scholarships. All this program does is give a slight boost in scoring to students raised in Qatar. So essentially, if an overseas student and student born in Qatar are equal, then the local student gets a nod for the scholarship. My understanding is that they already have scholarships reserved for specific subjects and foreign nationalities. Lots of universities do this sort of thing, and, as time goes by, successful graduates from overseas will likely establish scholarships for their countrymen.

Besides, it’s the foundation’s money, so they can do what they’d like with it.

Michael Fryer
Michael Fryer
7 years ago

Their money, their rules.

If it bothers you that much you could always study in the US, or any other country where students feel they deserve explanations about changes to discretionary rules and policies.

Mr. B
7 years ago
Reply to  Michael Fryer

Ah yes, there we go – the “if you don’t like it, leave” crowd.

Abdulrahman
Abdulrahman
7 years ago

“This change in criteria will only reinforce the age-old stereotypes about Qatar: no one cares how good you are at your job; it’s more about the connections you have (wasta) and how you can gain favors by pulling the right levers.” Is it a stereotype if it’s true 😉

“Akhtar said he received a scholarship worth $44,280 to cover his tuition fee last fall and would not be affected by the changes as the financial award will be automatically renewed if he maintains a 3.6 GPA, but added that the changes still bothered him.” So, you still to get to keep your $44,280 scholarship (for a 3.6 GPA!) and you are bothered why again?!

“It’s time HBKU went back to rewarding merit because it’s the best way to ensure that the culture of knowledge creation takes hold in Qatar,” This reminds of Suey Park’s recent interview on Salon 😉

Deepak Babu
Deepak Babu
7 years ago

As I understand, they prefer to spend money for educating people who are more likey to stay back and contribute to the country. How does this translate to wasta? Does Mr. Akhtar even know what the meaning of wasta is? I guess he won’t have to know, as he will be out of here after completing his studies.

Laibach
Laibach
7 years ago

It is their money and they can do whatever they want. However, merit-based scholarships recognize academic, athletic or some other achievement. Unless being born in Qatar is recognized as an outstanding achievement, the scholarship should no longer be called merit-based. Alternatively, they can add a “wasta” factor to the criteria, good for 20 points.

Expat Girl
Expat Girl
7 years ago
Reply to  Laibach

I agree with you 100%. For something to be “merit” based, factors such as where you were born, your residency in Qatar, and where you parents work should be irrelevant. There are many types of scholarships for every cause under the sun (both merit and non-merit based). I have no issue with giving perks to residents and this whole concept, but they should really remove the word “merit” from the scholarship name, no sense calling it something that it’s not.

Also feel a bit bad for the first year students who may have been working very hard to earn a merit based scholarship, now that the rules have changed so suddenly. But that’s life sometimes! Hopefully there are other scholarships that exist for which they will meet the criteria. Working hard to get good grades will pay off in the long run!

nphnph
nphnph
7 years ago

It is high time Qatar took some steps to give an edge to the non-citizens who call Qatar home. This is a win for everyone involved. It is entirely appropriate for Qatar to do something nice for its non-citizen residents. Moreover, the scholarship recipients must already be academically capable and accomplished, and they are to be rewarded for their academic achievements. I am delighted that Qatar is recognizing that it has non-citizen talent in its backyard, and it is good not only for local human relations, but also for the country, as these future well-educated individuals will be more likely to stay in Qatar and contribute to the country’s development. I also think some readers may not realize that many expatriate families have lived in Qatar for several generations. This is their country, too, regardless of the passports they hold. Well done, Qatar!

risingsophomore
risingsophomore
5 years ago

Hi everyone, I just want to let you know that this system is no longer in place. The new system relies solely on GPA.

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