Forget the War on Terror; this is the Struggle for Science

One missed facet of the explosive economic growth of the emerging economies of Asia and the Gulf, are the astounding amounts that they have granted to the top R&D educational institutions in the US. Even Portugal, not normally ranked among the top R&D supporters, funded an extensive portfolio of post-graduate courses. As R&D funding has decreased from US industry, many universities are picking up the slack from foreign sources, especially the Gulf. Some studies list the percentage of foreign donations from Gulf Arab nations to US colleges and universities as comprising 16.4% percent of all foreign donations.

Between 1995-2008, the Gulf nations donated approximately $88 million to 14 higher educational institutions. The Gulf nations are on a rapid drive to expand their educational base, and are determined to build their own world-class universities. The goal of the funding is explicitly for knowledge transfer. Qatar is leading the pack; transforming its country into a land for tolerance and the educational quest. Qatar’s Education City is a 2,500-acre piece of desert—inhabited by U.S. institutions like Cornell, Texas A&M, Carnegie Mellon and Virginia Commonwealth University.

As the Forbes article rightly pointed out, if the US slips into a prolonged recession, US universities may come up against a torrent of nationalism and isolationism, which tends to be an American response when faced with a hostile world and domestic troubles. If this occurs, just as the Dubai Ports World controversy exploded, it is possible that Gulf funding of elite US institutions could cause a domestic backlash.


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