All campuses in Education City will return to full, in-person learning modality by Feb. 6, according to emails sent by the universities.
The decision was made in response to the Ministry of Public Health (MOPH) announcement on Jan. 26 to resume 100 percent in-person instruction at all educational institutions beginning Jan. 30.
During the most recent spike in COVID-19 cases due to the Omicron variant, neither stay-at-home orders nor lockdowns were imposed in Doha. However, most educational institutions including Northwestern University in Qatar (NU-Q) have been operating virtually since the start of the spring semester on Jan. 2. Some facilities, including computer labs and editing suites, were open via appointment.
“The past few years have gone in a flash due to COVID, and that’s what makes me excited to get back on campus,” said Bishal Sharma, a communication senior at NU-Q. “I really hope that the transition becomes smooth for us, especially because this is my last semester as an undergraduate student.”
Other American universities in Education City will also return to in-person instruction. While Weill Cornell Medicine – Qatar (WCM-Q) began on-site instruction a week after the start of the semester, Georgetown University in Qatar (GU-Q), Texas A&M University in Qatar (TAMU-Q), and Virginia Commonwealth University School of the Arts in Qatar (VCU-Q) started in-person operations on Jan. 30.
In the emails, students were notified of the 1-meter social-distancing and masking requirements as well as all other MoPH testing and building-entry guidelines.
GU-Q communicated its decision to conduct full in-person classes starting Jan. 30 in an email sent on Jan. 27. Following its main campus, GU-Q also informed students about its booster- mandate policy. All GU-Q students who are eligible to obtain the booster shot will need to get vaccinated before Feb. 20. The mandate will also apply to students who have cross-registered for GU-Q courses.
Meanwhile, Carnegie Mellon University in Qatar (CMU-Q) will resume full-capacity instruction starting next week. Faculty were told to prepare for in-person classes from Jan. 30, transitioning to full capacity on Feb. 6.
All Education City universities started the spring semester online as the number of COVID-19 cases surged to record highs. Students, who returned to their campuses in the fall semester of 2021 after more than a year of virtual instruction due to the pandemic, say they are optimistic about returning in person again.
“It feels great to be back on campus,” said Hamza Ghauri, a senior at TAMU-Q. “The quality of education that I received on campus was much, much better than [via Zoom]. Especially as a STEM student, there are so many things that you need to converse about with your professor, and those concepts do not come through online. A lot was lost due to the pandemic.”
Amna Al Humaidi, a graphic design sophomore at VCU-Q, also said she did not find it easy to start the spring semester with online classes.
“In a face-to-face setting, the professors would usually walk around and randomly give feedback on students’ work, which greatly helped us develop our work,” she said. “In an online situation, the professors would usually give us the assignment and end the meeting. As a designer, I find that very discouraging.”
The emails from the universities also notified students that they must comply with the updated vaccination policies in Qatar. Starting Feb. 1, a booster shot is compulsory to maintain the status of being vaccinated and retain the golden frame in the Ehteraz application.
Anyone without the golden frame in the app will need to take the rapid antigen test weekly to access the campus buildings.
“As long as the university makes considerations for people who cannot attend because of genuine reasons, it’s going to be alright,” said Ghauri. “It’s impressive that [EC] campuses have been responsive to implement the ministry’s decision to go in-person fairly quickly.”