Texas A&M University to shut Qatar campus over Middle East instability

Decision to close by 2028 comes after a vote by its board of regents

DOHA, QATAR - February 17, 2009: Students walk on the grounds of the Texas A & M University in the Qatar Foundation, Education City in Doha, Qatar. Currently Northwestern University shares space at this campus, while its own campus is being built. (Ryan Carter / The National)

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Texas A&M University voted to begin shutting down its international campus in Qatar because of “heightened instability in the Middle East”.

The Qatar campus will close by 2028, the university said on Thursday, following a vote by its board of regents.

Texas A&M, with a presence in Qatar since 2003, is one of six US universities in Qatar’s Education City that is operated by the Qatar Foundation. Others include Georgetown, Northwestern, Cornell and Carnegie Mellon.

“The board has decided that the core mission of Texas A&M should be advanced primarily within Texas and the United States,” chairman Bill Mahomes said. “By the middle of the 21st century, the university will not necessarily need a campus infrastructure 8,000 miles away to support education and research collaborations.”

Funding to US colleges from foreign countries, including Qatar, has recently been under scrutiny in Congress as legislators investigate rising anti-Semitism on US college campuses since Hamas’s October 7 attacks on Israel.

Qatar Foundation reacted on Friday morning, saying the decision by Texas A&M was influenced by a disinformation campaign aimed at harming the interests of the foundation.

In recent weeks, a global anti-Semitism watchdog claimed that a relationship between Texas A&M and Qatar could make advanced nuclear and weapons-related technology available to countries hostile to the United States.

Texas A&M and the Qatar Foundation denied the claims.

“It is disturbing that this disinformation has become the determining factor in the decision and that it has been allowed to override the core principles of education and knowledge, with no consideration to the significant positive impact that this partnership has brought for both Qatar and the US,” the Qatar Foundation said in a statement.

“It is deeply disappointing that a globally respected academic institution like Texas A&M University has fallen victim to such a campaign and allowed politics to infiltrate its decision-making processes,” they added.

Reacting to the news on Friday, several sources at Texas A&M University in Qatar and the Qatar Foundation said they were taken by surprise by the decision given that no communications were raised ahead of the board’s vote.

“We were under the impression that top management was in constant communication, and we didn’t hear once that the board in College Station, Texas, were even going to vote about the Qatar campus given that their contract with QF was extended until 2033,” a source from the Qatar Foundation told The National.

Sources said senior management at Qatar Foundation and Texas A&M University in Qatar had clarified in statements the “absurdity” of claims made by The Institute for the Study of Global Antisemitism and Policy regarding nuclear research at the Qatar campus.

Texas A&M in Qatar teaches only courses in chemical, electrical, mechanical and petroleum engineering.

“Contrary to what these articles have implied, no nuclear technology, weapons/defence or national security research is conducted at this campus. Nor does the Qatar campus have any connection to nuclear reactor research done in Texas or the Los Alamos National Lab,” Texas A&M University President Mark A Welsh said last month.

Former Qatari prime minister Hamad bin Jassim bin Jaber Al Thani suggested the move was linked to Qatar's attempts to mediate a ceasefire in Israel's war in Gaza.

"Unfortunately, some malicious rumours, whose source and bad goals we know, were exploited to punish the State of Qatar for standing with the truth, and because it was an honest mediator and not on behalf of any party, to help a besieged people and stop a war of genocide," he wrote in a post on X, formerly Twitter.

"What is regrettable is this corrupt mixing between the educational mission and political purposes in a short-sighted manner that does not serve the relationship between the United States and the Arab world," he said.

"Rather, it fuels the differences that we hoped, and still hope, that education and development would help overcome, and remove all causes of disagreement and hatred."

Updated: February 10, 2024, 9:20 AM