Home Education Higher Education A comprehensive guide to studying in Qatar
Last update on March 19, 2020
Gayatri Bhaumik Written by Gayatri Bhaumik

Studying in Qatar might be an unusual choice, but for students looking to expand their horizons academically and culturally, it could be a good one.

Being a student in Qatar would certainly be a unique experience. And with the government currently pushing education, this is a good time to get on board. This helpful guide covers the following topics:

Higher education in Qatar

For university students, studying in Qatar is much as it is anywhere else in the world. You will attend classes throughout the week, and socialize during your free time. Of course, the university experience will likely be quieter than what you would expect back home. Qatar has a 17.87% enrollment rate in higher education. Most students here begin their university studies at 18. Classes are usually in English, however, on occasion, they can be in Arabic.

University students

Qatar University is the top local higher education institution. According to the Times Higher Education World University Rankings, it ranks 401 of the top 500 universities in the world. The university has nine colleges, including schools for Education, Business and Economics, Arts and Sciences, Engineering, Sharia, Pharmacy, Law, and Medicine. It caters to some 20,000 students, of which 38% are international.

In addition, a number of international universities have local campuses in Qatar. These include Carnegie Mellon, Northwestern, HEC Paris, University College London, and Georgetown. In Qatar, these operate in a similar way to Qatar University. 

Like in most other countries, universities here use a semester system. The academic year begins with the Fall semester, which runs from the end of August through November, with exams in December. Similarly, the Spring semester runs from mid-January through to the end of April. Students get a week off in March. After that, exams are in early May. There are also shorter optional Winter and Summer semesters. These are for students who want to fast-track their degrees or need to attend special classes.

Degree programs in Qatar

Qatar University offers 45 Bachelor’s degrees across many disciplines. For graduate students, the school has 25 Master’s programs and four PhD degrees. In addition, students can opt to study four diploma courses or a PharmD. Other universities offer a similar setup, although the local Georgetown campus only offers its Bachelor of Science in Foreign Service degree.

BA: Bachelor of Arts

All BA programs at Qatar University (and other institutions in the country) require a 70% pass mark in high school. Some programs, such as Arabic Language, also require a written test and personal interview. Others, such as Mass Communications, require a written test, a personal interview, and a 2.0 GPA. For a BA program, the average cost of studying in Qatar is QAR800 per credit hour. You will usually need four years to finish a BA degree.

Below are some of the most popular Bachelor of Arts majors in Qatar: 

  • Arabic Language
  • English Literature and Linguistics
  • History
  • International Affairs
  • Mass Communications
  • Psychology
The holy Koran

BSc: Bachelor of Science

Again, a 70% pass mark is required for BSc programs in Qatar. For the Sports Science program at Qatar University, you will also have to do a personal interview. All students must pass at least nine credit hours to stay in the course. In addition, they must also maintain a 2.0 GPA. The average cost of studying in Qatar for a BSc is QAR1,000 per credit hour.

Here are some of the most popular Bachelor of Science majors in Qatar: 

  • Biology
  • Chemistry
  • Environmental Science
  • Accounting
  • Finance
  • Marketing
  • Chemical Engineering
  • Computer Science
  • Civil Engineering

MBBS: Bachelor of Medicine

Good English skills are a must for this competitive program at Qatar University. In addition, students need an 85% pass in high school; this must include two science subjects. They also need to submit a personal statement about why they want to study medicine. Admission is especially tough for foreign students. Moreover, they will need to show outstanding performance in standardized testing such as the SATs. It is also helpful to have other activities like volunteering. The degree typically takes six years to complete. 

BSFS: Bachelor of Science in Foreign Service 

This degree is only offered at Georgetown University in Qatar. This is a full-time, four-year program. Students need 120 credits over 38 courses to get their degrees. In addition, they need to be able to hold a conversation in another language. For this, the university offers language classes in Arabic and French. To gain admission, students have to fill in an online form and write a personal statement. They need to submit transcripts, reports from a school counselor and teacher, and a passport copy. Students also need to show proof of their English skills with IELTS or TOEFL scores, along with SAT or ACT grades. They can major in international history, economics, politics, or culture and politics.

The BSFS also offers the following minors:

  • Arabic language
  • Economics
  • History
  • Government
  • Philosophy
  • Theology

Postgraduate programs 

In general, studying in Qatar for a Master’s program takes two years. Students will also have to write a thesis as part of their degree. To gain admission, you must have a Bachelor’s degree in a related field.

MA/MSc: Master of Arts / Master of Science

To get into an MA program in Qatar, students usually need to have a GPA of at least 2.8 in a similar Bachelor’s degree. Most programs take two years of full-time study to finish. They will also usually need to show two years’ work experience and have an interview, as well as send a CV and essay.

These are some of the most popular MA and MSc programs in Qatar: 

  • Arabic Literature and Language
  • Gulf Studies
  • Environmental Sciences
  • Material Sciences and Technology
  • Marketing
  • Urban Planning
  • Engineering Management

PhD

You will need a Master’s degree in a related field to get into a Doctorate program in Qatar. Additionally, you will need to have a GPA of at least 3.0 and sit the GMAT or GRE. Furthermore, you will need to submit a research statement and have an interview. The degree typically takes four years but must be finished in eight years.

General requirements for studying in Qatar

Visa requirements

You will need a Qatari resident’s permit in order to apply to university in Qatar. If you don’t have one (or are applying from outside Qatar) you will have to apply for a student visa at the same time you make your university application. 

Language requirements

English is the main language in Qatari universities. Therefore, international students must show strong English skills to study in Qatar. To do this, they may need to take the TOEFL or IELTS test.

Getting overseas qualifications recognized

In some cases, you may need to get your overseas qualifications certified to study in Qatar. The country recognizes International Baccalaureate (IB) diplomas and British A-Levels for undergraduate admissions. If you have a high school diploma from a different system, it may need to be attested by the Ministry of Education and your local Qatari embassy. 

Costs of studying in Qatar

Generally, the cost of studying in Qatar will be lower than in your home country. Study costs in Qatar for Undergraduate courses range between QAR800-QAR1,000 per credit hour. The exception is the College of Medicine. Fees here range between QAR1,000–2,000 per credit hour.

Qatari riyal

For graduate students, the average tuition fee is QAR2,000 per credit hour. Fees are usually paid online through secure university portals. In addition, international students can pay their fees through bank transfers. 

While you are studying in Qatar, you will also need to take into account the cost of textbooks and accommodation, which can mount up.

Funding available for studying in Qatar

If you need it, you may be able to get help with the costs of studying in Qatar. However, this mostly depends on your citizenship. If you can’t get a scholarship through the university, you may be able to get funding from private programs and institutions.

The Qatar University Scholarship waives tuition and book fees for exceptional Qatari students. Conversely, the GCC States Scholarship offers free tuition and housing to outstanding students from the Gulf states. International students at Qatar University can ask for partial or full tuition exemption. These are judged on a case-by-case basis and can be hard to get.

Georgetown University offers financial aid through the Qatar Foundation Financial Aid Program. This is a zero-interest loan that covers tuition and housing for one year. Students must reapply for a loan each year. Loans terms offer a standard repayment at 15% of your monthly salary once you begin working. Alternatively, you can stay in Qatar and work in Qatar Foundation-approved organizations. This way, you can pay off your debt between one and six years.

The Qatar Foundation Student Fund Scholarship also helps students in financial need. With this, students receive funds for a full year of tuition and textbooks. To qualify, you have to be a full-time student, have a minimum 3.6 GPA, and provide at least two letters of recommendation.

Study exchange programs in Qatar

Student exchange programs are a big part of studying in Qatar. Many university students choose to enrich their experiences by studying abroad. Additionally, many international students choose to immerse themselves in Qatar’s rich culture with a semester here. Either way, you will find plenty of opportunities.

Northwestern University in Doha

Qatar University offers exchanges through the International Association for the Exchange of Students for Technical Experience. This program gives engineering and science majors the chance to gain hands-on experience with an employer in 88 countries around the world. Similarly, the university also accepts Fulbright scholars at the College of Law. 

In addition, all foreign universities in Qatar offer study exchange programs with their home locations. For example, students at the Qatar branch of Georgetown and Carnegie Mellon can spend up to a year in Washington D.C. or Pittsburgh. They can apply by filling out a form and writing a personal statement.

How to apply to study in Qatar

Studying in Qatar doesn’t come particularly easy. The admissions process isn’t complicated, but it can be difficult to navigate, especially from abroad. 

For applications to Qatar University, you will have to apply directly to your intended college of study; this is done through their online system. You will fill in your personal information, family information, and details on your previous schooling. Additionally, you will need to pay a non-refundable QAR200 fee.

To support your application, you will need to submit some documents. These include a certified high school transcript, a health certificate issued in Qatar, a copy of your passport, and two photos.

In Qatar, most universities open applications in October for the following year and close in November. Admission decisions are announced in December. 

Student accommodation in Qatar

In Qatar, university accommodation is divided between female and male-only housing. Each features apartment-style living. Students usually get a twin shared room with closets, beds, desks, chairs, and air-con. High-end accommodation usually includes communal TV rooms, computer labs, and fitness centers.

Students

Campus accommodation normally offers three food services a day. You will also usually have laundry facilities and hosted activities. For convenience, students have shuttle services between their campus and residence and access to a medical clinic.

The cost of student accommodation is around QAR800/month for undergrads, and graduate students pay QAR2,000/month.

Working while studying in Qatar

Many universities offer student employment programs. These are designed to help students gain real work experience while studying. Most students can work in these programs for up to 20 hours per week. However, foreign students can’t work off-campus on a student visa. This requires a separate work visa and can be difficult to obtain.

Student healthcare in Qatar 

Most universities in Qatar have their own health clinics on campus. Students enrolled in the university can use these services for GP appointments. Additionally, some accommodation options provide health centers.

Student life in Qatar 

Student life in Qatar will probably be more sedate than what you would expect at university at home. This is because study is the focus here. Full-time undergraduates at Qatar University are required to take 18 credit hours for the autumn and spring semesters. Similarly, graduate students take a maximum of 12 credit hours. These are split between lectures, classes, and seminars, depending on your program. On the other hand, Georgetown undergrads are expected to enroll in a full-time course load of at least 12 credits each semester.

Cultural activities, such as Community Iftar, are a big part of student life. These can be a great way to learn about Qatari culture while you are there. Universities also offer a range of student activities; from sports like cricket and football to volunteering and special interest clubs.

Ruby Wu’s restaurant at Radisson Blu Hotel, Doha
Ruby Wu’s restaurant at Radisson Blu Hotel, Doha

Many students also enjoy exploring Doha’s culinary scene and going on cultural excursions. There are always museums, exhibitions, cinemas, and theatre shows to check out.

Cost of living in Qatar

You will need to factor living expenses into the costs of studying in Qatar; this means budgeting for food, eating out, entertainment, and so on.

To put things in perspective, a meal at McDonald’s costs around QAR25, while a fancier meal will probably set you back around QAR200. Similarly, a pint of domestic draft beer is QAR50. However, at a supermarket, beer costs around QAR30/bottle. In Qatar, a coffee costs the same as it would in London or Tokyo; you can expect to pay QAR15–25.

You will probably use your campus shuttle to travel between your residence and classes. But if you’re going around town, you will probably use taxis, too. The normal starting tariff for a cab is QAR10, with an additional QAR2/km charge, plus waiting time. If you can navigate the bus system, you will pay QAR3–10 for a one-way ticket. Monthly tickets are available for QAR100–200.

After studying in Qatar 

All universities in Qatar offer career counseling and guidance for current students and alumni. These can be a good place to start preparing for your career. Career offices can help you explore career paths, write CVs, and prepare for interviews.

Moreover, these offices usually have strong relationships with local employers. This can help you find internships or even graduate jobs. In addition, many universities will also host job fairs where you can meet potential employers. These are a great way to gain a better understanding of what your prospects are once you have finished your studies.

If you have a degree from a Qatar-based university, you may find it easier to get a job in the country since you will have access to a local network. However, this may be less useful for finding opportunities overseas.