Mahmoud Said, Title Unknown, 1938, © Mathaf: Arab Museum of Modern Art

UCL opens campus in Qatar

Simon Stephens, 03.11.2010
Master’s in museums and conservation practice and in Arab and Islamic archaeology available from 2012
University College London (UCL) is to create a campus in the Middle Eastern state of Qatar to teach museum studies, archaeology and conservation, following an agreement signed on 28 October.

The Qatar Museums Authority (QMA) and the Qatar Foundation for Education, Science and Community Development have funded the initiative. UCL, which would not reveal how much the agreement is worth, said about 150 students a year will eventually study at University College London in Qatar (UCL-Q), while training will also be provided for QMA staff.

“There is a really extraordinary growth in museum building in the Middle East in general and in the Gulf particularly,” said Sally MacDonald, UCL's director of museums, collections and public engagement, “Some of this is certainly about building tourist markets, but it goes much deeper.”

QMA opened the IM Pei-designed Museum of Islamic Art in 2008 and will unveil the Mathaf: Arab Museum of Modern Art at the end of this year. In 2013 it will reopen the National Museum of Qatar, which is currently closed for a redevelopment led by French architect Jean Nouvel.

UCL will provide training for QMA staff from spring 2011, while two master’s programmes in museums and conservation practice and in Arab and Islamic archaeology, will be available from 2012.

“For UCL, this is a long-term strategic development,” MacDonald said. “It is absolutely not about some imperialist venture or exporting a product we already have but one where we feel we have as much to learn as to give.”

UCL will initially employ 22 people in Doha, with the majority being existing UCL staff, although MacDonald said it will probably need to recruit externally for some positions.

A number of UK universities have developed overseas campuses, including Edinburgh's Heriot-Watt, which has one in Dubai, and Nottingham, which has sites in Malaysia and China.