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UNC, Qatar Discuss Business School

The Qatar Foundation for Education, Science and Community Development, a government-backed organization in the small Middle East country, approached the business school about two years ago to discuss opening a branch business school.

"We're still in discussions with our faculty to gauge the level of support and to be sure that we've considered all the issues," said Julie Collins, a senior associate dean at the business school.

"We're hoping these discussions continue on a positive footing, as they have been thus far, so that we may be able to move forward."

The Qatar Foundation, created six years ago by the ruling emir, Sheikh Hamad bin Khalifa Al-Thani, would bear all of the financial burden for the new school.

Robert Sullivan, dean of the business school, said at a May 24 meeting of the Board of Trustees that there had been discussion of a deal in which for each student enrolled in Qatar, the foundation would provide funds to enroll one additional undergraduate student at UNC.

The trustees voted unanimously at that meeting to authorize continuing the discussions.

"To the extent that we're committed to being more global in our approach to education, this is one of several opportunities that face us," said trustee Tim Burnett, who was part of a recent faculty trip to Qatar paid for by the foundation.

Collins said there are still many aspects of the proposal to discuss.

"We have to continue to evaluate this program and its consistency with our mission as a public state institution," she said.

"The bottom line is, we have to be sure that this in no way costs the University anything, and that it provides enhanced opportunities for the people we serve here in Chapel Hill."

She said if all proceeds smoothly, the first classes in Qatar could be held as early as fall 2002 or 2003.

"The key to making it work is the faculty," said Provost Robert Shelton. "They have to give their support to the academic side."

He said he had attended part of a meeting of the faculty members who went to Qatar.

"At that meeting there seemed to be a lot of positive enthusiasm, tempered with substantive questions," Shelton said.

He said concerns included making the program benefit the whole university and ensuring a welcoming environment for female or Jewish UNC professors in Qatar.

"I personally think it's a tremendous opportunity; provided the faculty feel the academic quality and academic standards can be met," Shelton said.

Collins also said she strongly supported making the program a reality.

"I had been very impressed with the Qatar Foundation's commitment to excellence and wanting to do something in a first-rate fashion," she said.

"The other thing that I find as a very positive opportunity is the potential for the business school and the University to begin to have more of a presence in additional parts of the world," Collins said.

"Those are the reasons why I personally support continuing to see if we can make it work."

Geoff Wessel can be reached at

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