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The Daily Tar Heel

Qatar Program Plans Proceed

Officials from the Qatar Foundation for Education, Science and Community Development approached the UNC system about two years ago with a proposal to establish a business curriculum and degree program for students in the region.

Qatar is a small nation bordering Saudi Arabia across the Persian Gulf from Afghanistan, the country suspected of harboring Osama bin Laden, the key suspect in Tuesday's terrorist attacks.

A curriculum planning committee, made up of UNC-Chapel Hill leaders and faculty, is exploring what type of curriculum UNC-CH would offer in Qatar.

Provost Robert Shelton said there are still logistical items that need to be finalized before the program is concrete. "We need to decide what kind of curriculum is needed for it to be a legitimate UNC business degree," he said. "Once a curriculum is in play and we get a clear sense of cost, then we will proceed."

But amid growing turmoil in the Middle East, officials say many important questions remain. "A lot of faculty have been engaged in this process, and legitimate questions have been raised and addressed ... about human rights and safety," said Robert Sullivan, dean of the Kenan-Flagler Business School.

But Sullivan pointed out that safety issues always are raised and addressed with any international program, regardless of where the country is located.

Risa Palm, dean of the College of Arts and Sciences, said a decision about whether the University will proceed with the program should be made by the third week in October. If the committee's findings are positive, UNC-CH could offer classes as soon as fall 2002, Shelton said.

Shelton said additional safety measures could be taken if UNC-CH decides to offer a curriculum in Qatar. "In any possible contract, we would have provisions about how faculty will be treated," he said.

Sullivan said the program in Qatar would initially include about 25 Middle Eastern students from across the region. The students would have to meet the same academic requirements and standards as UNC-CH students.

Sullivan also said if the program is established, there might eventually be an opportunity for UNC-CH students to go to Qatar. Officials say establishing a program in Qatar could be beneficial to UNC-CH's goal of expanding its worldwide presence. "Our mission is education and to promote scholarship," Sullivan said.

All UNC-CH study abroad programs in the Middle East have been canceled in recent years, but if a successful program is established in Qatar, officials say others could follow.

Palm said, "Our goal is to have an international presence and to emphasize the importance of study abroad."

The University Editor can be reached at udesk@unc.edu.

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