GRM 2010 GRM 2011

Abstract Details

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Title of Paper:
Framing the Social & Cultural Factors Influencing the Quality of Gulf University: The Case of Qatar University
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Extended Abstract

Students forming the pool of Qatar University’s (QU) student population, although mostly Qataris or of Arab origin, are diverse. Some of their diverse characteristics are based on gender, age, employment status, marital status, the secondary school they attended, language proficiency, the choice of College and whether they are first generation students or not. In addition, they generally come from a sheltered and highly segregated society and high school environment. These characteristics influence their career goals, the support they get from their circles, the time spent on campus, their involvement in extracurricular activities and university life and therefore their attitude towards their studies and their perception and expectations of Qatar University. As a result, the university has to work with all these different groups and adapt to the challenges that arise from these social and cultural factors so to achieve its primary objective which is to produce a capable national workforce able to support Qatar’s 2030 vision.

Social and Cultural Issues and challenges

Some of the social and cultural issues that characterize the pool of students at QU are:
• Some of the newly admitted students lack the skills and knowledge required for any university freshman. The primary reason is the underperforming secondary school system which does not equip students with the necessary language proficiency, research, analytical and study skills, work ethics and team work mechanics. In addition, secondary school students are not provided adequate college admission advice.
• The simultaneous fulltime student and fulltime employee spends little time on campus, rarely engages in extracurricular activities and is primarily interested in a light course load. S/he misses out on the benefits of being part of the overall educational environment.
• Students in general and married students in particular, whether male or female, have family obligations that limit their involvement in university life, their expectations and objectives of being University students and their career goals shift with their family responsibilities.
• The wide student age range means that some students are fresh high school graduates while others are established professionals who are coming back to university to earn their first degree. Their age influences their inclusion in campus, their ease in using technology, the possible ways to reach them and support them in their transition to university.
• As for the gender factor, there is a distinct difference between male and female students with respect to their objective and motivation to study and their life on campus. We often observe that female students are significantly higher performers. In some cases, female students get much more involved in the social life on campus and view the university as a mean to engage in a socially acceptable out of the home activity and subsequently go into the workforce to continue engaging in out of the home activity.

Challenges facing Academic Advisers

One of the main challenges facing QU in general and academic advisers in specific is the fact that some students treat university as an extension of the high school protective environment and have the same expectations from the university. The challenge is to assist and educate these students to take and share responsibility for their education and their future.

Another considerable cultural challenge is the fact that some students primarily seek information and assistance from siblings, relatives and friends. Those are the trust worthy members of a student’s circle. Unfortunately this sometimes leads to wrong academic decisions and limited student development.

The underperforming secondary school system challenges QU and its academic advisors to create channels to bridge the gap between the status of the newly admitted students and the ideal skill and knowledge level required for a promising university student and a future force in the country’s development.

Towards a new paradigm in Academic Advising at QU

Through literature review and interviews with students, professors and academic advisors, this paper is going to outline a new approach in academic advising relying on a more comprehensive understanding of the characteristics of the student body. Standardized academic advising is replaced with tailored approaches to the different student groups to achieve QU mission and vision to prepare the competent and future leaders of Qatar. We believe that this matrix approach is critical to the students’ success.

Suggestions and recommendations will be made so that QU is able to overcome many of the cultural and social challenges and reach out to an ever growing and diverse student body. Academic advisors at QU have to develop different mediums to reach the students and equip them with the skills they desperately need to succeed in the higher education environment in and out of the classroom. This is vital for the students’ development and therefore creates the national human capital to cope with Qatar’s ambitious development and desire to decrease its dependency on expatriates.


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