The “Crazy College of Qatar”

As you may know, Houston Community College opened a satellite campus in Doha, Qatar, a couple of years ago. Apparently there have been a few bumps in the road along the way.

HCC Qatar West Bay Campus

The dean chosen by the Qatari government was replaced in November by a veteran HCC employee, Butch Herrod, as part of an administrative overhaul. Enrollment has reached 750 students, less than two years after HCC signed an agreement with the Qatari government to create that nation’s first community college.

But students have not received HCC credits for their classes there – a cornerstone of the promises made when the partnership was announced – and for now it appears unlikely their coursework will transfer to the six U.S. universities with operations in Qatar. After months of student protests, a deal signed last month will allow graduates of the new community college to enroll in Qatar University.

Things were so bad last spring an HCC administrator in Qatar wrote HCC Chancellor Mary Spangler that Community College of Qatar, or CCQ, had become known as “the Crazy College of Qatar.”

From the beginning, Spangler said the Qatar contract was a way to earn money as state funding dropped and property tax revenues remained flat. HCC records indicate the college has collected $640,034 from the deal; it projects a profit of $4.6 million by 2015, slightly more than expected.

Deputy Chancellor Art Tyler said in a recent interview that things now are running smoothly, and that misunderstandings are unavoidable in any international operation.

“The world is not exactly flat,” he said. “It may have gotten smaller over the years, thanks to technology, but when you’re dealing with people, with communities, you can’t know everything.”

There’s more here. I included that bit about the profit HCC expects to make from this deal because I’m sure you’re wondering why they would open a campus overseas like that. I know I discussed it in my interview with new Trustee Carroll Robinson. Anyway, my take on this is that part of the problem was the usual growing pains with any new operation, part was the dean that has since been replaced, and part was attributable to cultural differences. If they can get the issue of being able to transfer credits resolved, then this venture can be judged a success. If not, it’s a failure and there will be some embarrassing questions to answer.

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