GRM 2010 GRM 2011

Abstract Details

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International Education as Public Diplomacy: The Soft Power Potential of Qatar Higher Education
Paper Proposal Text :
Higher educational institutions can be considered a nontraditional venue to form the hearts and minds of future elites from other countries who will assume leadership positions in their respective countries. This is recognized by the US and Western countries, which continue to attract thousands of foreign students for studies. For years, the US higher education system has offered scholarships via programs such as the Fulbright and many other nationwide and institutional initiatives .Outside Western Europe and the US, countries like China, Japan and Turkey, have recognized the role and relevance of facilitating international education to their national interests and overall soft power goals. In pursuance of a similar strategy, Qatar also has successfully invited prestigious US universities to open branches in Qatar, where they offer the same degrees as their parent universities in the US. In attracting foreign students, Qatar also offers scholarships to international students to pursue their higher education in its various other educational institutions.
This paper is guided by Nye's Theory of Soft Power to evaluate the soft power potential of Qatar higher education. Through ethnographic interviews based upon open-response questions this study will obtain data from international students participating in Qatar University's MA program in Gulf Studies to gauge to what extent their participation can buttress Qatar soft power. It seeks to understand these students' experiences that arise from their social interaction with the host community both at social and intellectual levels; to know how they explain or "make sense" of sharing with the host community sense of community or common identity, and to comprehend how they see their possibility of returning to their countries and assuming influential positions.
Although international education seems a useful mechanism for soft power, the low level of student social interactions with the host country and the possibility that students will not return to their countries and attain influential political positions may lessen the soft power potential of international higher education
Thus, as Qatar international higher education is seen as part of its efforts to enhance its reputation and influence in regional and global arenas, there is little attention to empirically evaluate whether this goal is enhanced. Therefore, the finding of this research will inform Qatar international education’s public diplomacy impacts and soft power potential.

Keywords: Higher education, soft power, Qatar, international students