VCU School of the Arts in Qatar Celebrates 10th Anniversary

Virginia Commonwealth University School of the Arts in Qatar celebrated its 10th anniversary this week, marking a decade since VCU became the first university from the United States to operate a campus in Qatar.

VCU School of the Arts in Qatar
VCU School of the Arts in Qatar

The Shaqab College of Design Arts operated by VCU opened its doors in the fall of 1998, founded by Virginia Commonwealth University and the Qatar Foundation for Education, Science and Community Development to provide the highest level of design education and training for the citizens of Qatar, the Arabian Gulf region and beyond. The branch campus, Virginia Commonwealth University School of the Arts in Qatar, opened in Education City in Doha in 2002, replacing the Shaqab College of Design Arts. VCUQatar students earn Bachelor of Fine Arts degrees in Graphic Design, Fashion Design or Interior Design through a comprehensive four-year curriculum.

VCU President Eugene P. Trani, Ph.D., said the success of VCU in Qatar is a testament to the wisdom of global outreach in higher education.

"We blazed a trail that has resulted in students in the region having access to a world-class arts education from a university with an internationally acclaimed School of the Arts," said Trani, who in addition to the campus in Qatar has established significant linkages with 15 international universities.

Richard Toscan, Ph.D., vice provost for international affairs at VCU and dean of the VCU School of the Arts, said "Qatar has proven to be an excellent home for VCU. The program at VCUQatar has flourished during its first decade and will continue to grow and thrive in its next 10 years. The VCUQatar experience is one of both cultural and academic discovery, incorporating centuries of traditional design with emerging models that will shape the future of design."

The highlight of the VCUQatar celebration this week was a gala dinner on Nov. 13 at the Diplomatic Club in Doha. Gala guests included VCUQatar faculty, staff, alumni and special guests from Qatar and the United States, including a U.S. congressional delegation. Members of the United States Congress at the gala were Rep. Ruben Hinojosa of Texas, Rep. Howard McKeon of California, Rep. Mazie Hirono of Hawaii, Rep. Ric Keller of Florida, Rep. Silvestre Reyes of Texas, Rep. Graciela Napolitano of California and Rep. Ed Pastor of Arizona. 

Among the speakers at the gala were Joseph Evan LeBaron, the U.S. Ambassador to Qatar, who applauded VCU’s pioneering role in opening a campus in Qatar, and Ahmed Al Mazroie, deputy CEO of Qatar Diar, who praised the quality of the VCUQatar graduates that his company has employed. The VCU Jazz Quintet performed during the gala.

Thomas Rosenthal, rector of the VCU Board of Visitors, expressed appreciation for the leadership of His Highness Sheikh Hamad Bin Khalifa Al Thani, emir of Qatar, and his wife, Her Highness Sheikha Mozah Bint Nasser al Missned, for their leadership in developing the partnership with VCU.

“I would like to congratulate His Highness, the Emir, and Her Highness on their vision and confidence in taking such a bold – and now, so obviously brilliant – action on behalf of Qatari citizens and the world,” Rosenthal said.

VCUQatar students reflect a diversity of countries: Australia, Bahrain, Brazil, Canada, Denmark, Egypt, Germany, India, Iran, Iraq, Jordan, Kuwait, Lebanon, Namibia, New Zealand, Oman, Pakistan, Palestine, Peru, the Philippines, Qatar, Sudan, Syria, Turkey, the United Kingdom and the United States. There are 209 students enrolled this fall at VCUQatar with 38 full-time faculty members. The school had an all-female student body until the fall of 2007, when it started to enroll its first male students.

VCUQatar has graduated 182 students since its first commencement exercises were held in 2002.

“We are very proud of the contributions of our graduates,” said Allyson Vanstone, dean of VCUQatar. “Their success is our success and they are the true pioneers who are leading the way in establishing Qatar as the design center of the Middle East.”

About VCU and VCU Medical Center

Virginia Commonwealth University is a major, urban public research university with national and international rankings in sponsored research. Located in downtown Richmond, VCU enrolls more than 31,000 students in 226 degree and certificate programs in the arts, sciences and humanities. Sixty-seven of the programs are unique in Virginia, many of them crossing the disciplines of VCU’s 13 schools and one college. MCV Hospitals and the health sciences schools of Virginia Commonwealth University comprise VCU Medical Center, one of the nation’s leading academic medical centers. For more, see

About the Virginia Commonwealth University School of the Arts in Qatar

VCUQatar is the Qatar campus of the prestigious Virginia Commonwealth University School of the Arts in Richmond, Virginia. Established in 1998 through a partnership with Qatar Foundation, VCUQatar offers students the opportunity to earn a Bachelor of Fine Arts degree in fashion design, graphic design, interior design and painting & printmaking, a Bachelor of Arts degree in art history and a Master of Fine Arts degree in design. In addition to a comprehensive annual public events program that includes a wide range of exhibitions, lectures and fashion events, the University hosts the biennial international design conference Tasmeem and the biennial Hamad bin Khalifa Islamic Art Symposium, attracting globally recognized designers, academics and thinkers while fostering sustainable, university-community partnerships that enhance the educational, economic and cultural vitality of Qatar. For more information please visit