This paper will analyze the contributions of transnational universities in Gulf to make Gulf cities transnational meeting places between national and professional cultures for creating innovative, knowledge-based economies and for building strategic knowledge relations with existing Western partners and new emerging market partners (the case of China).

The paper will have special emphasis on Doha and compare with other Gulf cities with transnational university environments as Abu Dhabi, Dubai, Sharjah and Kuwait City. The paper makes policy recommendations for Doha on maximizing the quality and intensity of transnational university relations. These recommendations will focus on developing transnational triple-helix innovation systems linking academia, business and government in Doha (elsewhere in the Gulf) as well as strategic knowledge relations for politics and diplomacy with both traditional partners in the West and new partners in emerging markets especially in Asia. These two agendas are mutually reinforcing as thriving global centers of triple helix innovation between academia, business and government stand the best chances of building strategic knowledge relations for politics and diplomacy. This research builds on field work in Lebanon, Egypt, UAE and Kuwait and 100+ interviews there and wider.

Qatar and other Gulf states are seeking to transform fossil fuel-based economies to innovative, knowledge-based economies and have large youth population. Both aspects demand quality and innovative higher education and expanded capacity. Gulf states have initially turned to privatization and internationalization attracting or establishing transnational universities (foreign branch campuses, universities offering double or foreign degrees, or universities with foreign accreditations or management partnerships). Qatar is now taking the next step of strengthening and internationalizing its national university. Both private and public transnational academic institutions connect a range of academic, government, business and civil society actors in Qatar and other Gulf societies with overseas societies.

Qatar also exists in a region with significant risks and pressures on the state as the other Gulf states. Qatar is therefore dependent on strategic relationships with the USA, European states, regional states and further. It is crucial for Qatar that there exist deep and longstanding knowledge relations between Qatari and foreign decision-makers in politics, (energy) business, military, academia, etc, with a deep knowledge of issues and other actors. There exists today such strong knowledge relations between especially Qatar, the Gulf states and the USA based on decades of close collaboration, educational and research collaboration, etc. However, Qatar lives in a changing world of globalization and rising new centers of power, most notably China. Qatar and China have not had the opportunity to build such a strategic knowledge relationship. It is imperative for Qatar going forward to do so.

Research on the historical transnational universities in the Middle East, the American University of Beirut, the Université Saint-Joseph de Beyrouth and the American University in Cairo, shows that these universities are exceptionally influential transnational actors moving ideas, information, talent and financial resources of high quality and intensity (Bertelsen 2012b). The Beirut universities transformed their urban environment making Beirut into an intellectual regional hub. The historical transnational universities are particularly interesting for their ability to build strong and long-lasting knowledge connections with high-ranking academia, business and government in especially the USA and France.

The basis of this paper is how public and private transnational universities in Qatar and the Gulf can create transnational relations with academia, government, business and civil society in both the USA and Europe – but also China as a case of emerging market science, technology and innovation systems. The purpose of these strong transnational knowledge relations is building transnational triple helix innovation systems in Doha and other Gulf cities both with connections to existing Western strategic partners and centers of science, technology and innovation and future partners.

The paper analyzes how universities in Doha and other Gulf societies contribute to create transnational cities with relations to academia, government, business and civil society in both the USA, Europe and China and thus contribute significantly to creating innovative, knowledge-based urban and national economies and strategic knowledge relationships.

The research finding and policy implications is that the transnational knowledge relations of Doha (and other Gulf university cities) are central for Qatar (and other Gulf states) in both strategic economic and political aspects: For economic policy strategy, these relations are central for building human capital with global skills and networks for building transnational triple helix innovation systems in Doha and wider, which can transform Qatar and other Gulf states into more knowledge-based economies. Here it is important both to strengthen existing knowledge relations to current US and European centers of science, technology and innovation.

For political and diplomatic strategy, these transnational knowledge relations are equally important. It is crucial for Qatar and the other Gulf states to maintain dense networks of Qatari and foreign current and future decision-makers in politics, business, academia, military, etc, who have a deep understanding of Qatari and Gulf affairs seen from within the Gulf and from outside. Such relations take decades to build up and are long-term investments. Again it is crucial to maintain the strategic knowledge relations between Qatar and its Western partners. However, Qatar lives in a rapidly changing world of globalization and new centers of power in Asia. Qatar and the other Gulf states have not cultivated the long-term and deep knowledge relations with especially China as with the West. Equally China lacks networks, knowledge and understanding of Qatar. Therefore it is of strategic importance that public and private universities in Qatar and Doha as a global city of knowledge build transnational knowledge relations with academia, business and government in China. (It is also important with other Asian emerging markets as India, South Korea, etc. China is selected here as the most important case).


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