Giving Adult Learners a Competitive EdgeBill Mercer | Manager of Graduate Studies and Continuing Education Services, Texas A&M University at Qatar
International Branch Campuses (IBC) are typically plopped down into a region in which, according to market research, the population wants a decent education that they are not otherwise getting, from a reputable and renowned institution. There is often a financial incentive to begin an IBC, and affiliation with the main campus is perhaps not as strong as one would expect. IBCs should build up their reputation for themselves, but not to the detriment of the brand image or quality of education found on the main campus. Texas A&M University at Qatar (TAMUQ) does not fit that typical model of IBC.
TAMUQ was invited by the Qatari government to help Qatar reach its goals of becoming a knowledge-based economy by 2030. Now celebrating our 10th year in Qatar, we have made great strides in achieving that ambitious and noble vision, through matriculation and ongoing research. While we are separately and equally accredited from the main campus, we are no less rigorous when it comes to admissions or curriculum. Our ties to main campus in College Station, Texas are extremely strong and our students often take part in exchange programs between the campuses. TAMUQ provides a top-notch engineering undergraduate and graduate education but also provides a sense of camaraderie also known around campus as the “Aggie Spirit” that has been exported from Texas. The Aggie Spirit even reaches beyond the student, to their families.
TAMUQ’s vision is imparting knowledge through engineering degree programs and dissemination of research. However, to develop a knowledge-based economy, an institution cannot simply hand out degrees and hope for the best. That institution must promote lifelong learning and instill the desire into its students to continue their education long after they walk across the stage. We continue to reach out to former students, their employers, their friends, and their families for professional development long into their careers. It is expected the number of hours spent in non-traditional education through professional development will far exceed the hours in obtaining a degree.
One way TAMUQ promotes lifelong learning is through Continuing Education Services (CES). CES provides quality professional development and training from world-class faculty and professionals in state-of-the-art facilities to local and regional technical personnel. With their new knowledge, learners can apply new tools and techniques immediately, ensuring their organization’s economic advantage and sustainable growth. We cater to the region’s need for innovative technical skills, enhanced safety behaviors, and increased business acumen.
The adult learner is key to the success of an IBC in the long term. TAMUQ already has generational reach from students in undergraduate or graduate courses to parents in CES short courses. The Aggie Spirit also binds the two groups, and current students will soon have children who they will want to send to their alma mater, and who will also want to continue their professional development here as well.
A knowledge-based economy is not developed overnight. It requires decades of dedication by teachers, faculty, staff, the government, and the citizens to continue to march towards that vision. It is TAMUQ’s mission to service that dedication until the nation’s vision is achieved—and for long after. Continuing Education Services ensures the adult learner has a mechanism to practice that dedication and reach further goals personally and professionally.
Author Perspective: Administrator