Sign up

Have some pie!

Students left out of Texas A&M’s Qatar decision

Staff and students at Texas A&M’s Qatar campus have expressed their shock and dismay at the sudden decision to close the campus after more than two decades, which was announced by the board of regents in Texas on February 8. 

Triangular roof structures at Texas A&M University Campus in Doha, Qatar.Texas A&M University Qatar campus. Photo: Alex Sergeev, CC BY-SA 3.0

“Perhaps the others should have flown over to see for themselves”

According to Brittany Bounds, professor of History at TAMQU, the faculty in Doha had no prior suspicions of the campus’s closure. 

They were informed of the news via an email from president Mark A. Welsh delivered at 1 am AST on Friday, at the start of the weekend which falls on Friday-Saturday in most Arab countries. 

“Dean César Malavé [of the Qatar campus] met with the faculty leaders before the board meeting, and while he was concerned enough to fly to Texas to be on hand if they had any questions, he felt secure enough to not be worried about a vote against the campus,” Bounds told The PIE. 

The regents in Texas voted 7-1 to cut the contract without any public discussion. They announced that the university would wind down to an official closure in 2028 so all current students can complete their studies. 

“Conversations about the closing of an entire campus clearly occurred before the meeting, behind closed doors, as evidenced by the short discussion before the board came out in public and announced their vote.

“It’s frustrating and unfortunate that an academic institution such as Texas A&M can be directed by non-academic entities… The board made their decision unilaterally without consideration of input from the leadership of the campus, the TAMUQ campus, or Qatar Foundation,” said Bounds 

Student president Khalid Al-Sada told The PIE that the news was a “major betrayal” which felt like a “slap in the face”.

“The only regent who voted for the campus to remain active is the only one who has ever visited and seen the close-knit community of about 1,000 faculty and students here,” said Al-Sada. 

Texas A&M University opened its Doha campus in 2003 in partnership with the state-led Qatar Foundation which funds all campus operations. 

The campus specialises in engineering and is one of six American universities that has a location in Doha’s Education City, all focussing on different areas of academic study. 

In a press release sent to staff after the regents’ vote, the board said it had decided to evaluate the university’s presence in Qatar “due to heightened instability in the Middle East”. 

“The board has decided that the core mission of Texas A&M should be advanced primarily within Texas and the US,” board of regents chair Bill Mahomes said.

“Qatar has always been 8,000 miles away”

“The only Regent who voted to keep the campus open has seen for himself that these accusations about ‘regional instability’ are not true. Perhaps the others should have flown over to see for themselves,” said Bounds. 

At a town hall meeting to explain the decision on February 11, Al-Sada said that the students didn’t receive any meaningful answers to their questions and left feeling that the decision had been “rushed” and “not properly thought through”. 

“They kept on telling us that Qatar is too far away and that the university wanted to focus on Texas. But students didn’t take that well because Qatar has always been 8,000 miles away,” said Al-Sada. 

Bounds was also sceptical about the regents’ reasoning to close the campus due to heightened instability in the Middle East, citing the “political environment in Texas” as another driving force.  

Last month, the university faced criticism over its Qatar campus from a US-based think tank after the start of the Israel-Hamas war in October. 

The Institute for the Study of Global Antisemitism and Policy released a 17-page report alleging it had discovered a “disturbing relationship between Qatar and Texas A&M University”. 

Qatar has been a key mediator for negotiations in the war and has ties to some Hamas exiled leaders. The country also hosts the largest American military base between Europe and Japan. 

Following the university’s closure, the Qatar Foundation released a statement on X saying that Texas A&M had been influenced by a “disinformation campaign”.

The university firmly denied the accusations made by ISGAP and claimed they had no bearing on its decision to close the campus one month after the allegations were published. 

However, given the timing of the decision, Bounds said it would be “incomprehensible” to think that the report didn’t influence their decision. 

“If they had concerns about associations or research, it would have been a responsible move to investigate these claims rather than make uninformed decisions,” she added. 

Al-Sada noted that the timing was particularly surprising due to the fact that Texas A&M had renewed its contract with the Qatar Foundation just last year. 

A senior in his fifth year of his chemical engineering degree, Al-Sada will no longer be able to do a chemical engineering masters at TAMUQ as he had planned. 

The university has said it will set up a student and faculty “transition team” to help with the planned closure, but Al-Sada said that students are not convinced they will be listened to. 

“Where was our input before? Why was there no warning? How can we guarantee our input will be taken into consideration this time?” he asked. 

Related articles

Still looking? Find by category:

Add your comment

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Disclaimer: All user contributions posted on this site are those of the user ONLY and NOT those of The PIE Ltd or its associated trademarks, websites and services. The PIE Ltd does not necessarily endorse, support, sanction, encourage, verify or agree with any comments, opinions or statements or other content provided by users.

To receive The PIE Weekly with our top stories and insights, and other updates from us, please