Monday, November 12, 2007

A Medill Mistake in the Middle East?

The deed is done: Northwestern University will open journalism and communications schools in the Middle Eastern nation of Qatar.

The Trib reports:

The deal, first reported in the Tribune in April, will offer foreign students an undergraduate curriculum similar to the one taught in Evanston. The first 40 students are expected to enroll next fall.

The schools are to be a part of Education City, one of a few major Western-influenced education compounds in hot cities (no pun intended) in the Middle East.

But I've gotta ask: Can Medill handle opening up a sister school in a foreign country when it can't even handle it's own identity at home?

No matter how you feel about the outsourcing of American higher education to the Middle East -- "The Qatari government will pay all start-up and operational costs, including construction of a new building and faculty and administrative salaries," the Trib reports -- the most important question is whether Medill is really ready for this kind of investment.

Oh, and same goes for the students in Doha: "Northwestern will charge students the same tuition they would pay in Evanston—$35,064 this year—and admissions standards will be the same, officials say." -- an enormous sum by any measure, no matter the exchange rate for the dollar.

Do Middle Eastern journalism students deserve a Medill degree? Unequivocally and without a doubt. There are fine journalism prospects in every country, especially so for a nation so close to so many of the world headlines in 2007. But with identity crisis at home, does Medill deserve to beat out Boston University and Missouri for a spot in Education City?

Or more importantly: Does Medill really deserve the fine Middle Eastern journalism prospects its moving to attract?

Maybe. But to me, this is like selling a prototype concept car to the rest of the world before the kinks are worked out for the American public. It's just not right, and I have yet to see proof otherwise that the j-school is putting the cart before the horse.


Alex Parker said...

Interesting post. Out of curiosity, in your opinion, how well-regarded is Boston University's program?

Anonymous said...

This is kind of out of left-field but there's this great line from Musician/Poet Gil-Scot Heron. It came to mind when reading this post.
Heron wrote:
"What has happened is that America has changed from a producer, to a consumer. And everyone knows that when the producer names the tune, the consumer has got to dance..." That was recorded in the early 80's.

Qatar is a producer.

Doug Mitchell

Rockonchris said...

Here's a link to a NYT story today about how Qatar is pulling the reins in on Al-Jazeera at the Saudis' behest.

When an NU rep was interviewed on Chicago Tonight after the announcement of the joint venture, she said that there would be no meddling in the curriculum by Qatar, even though the government is paying for all costs, including construction.