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Members of an all-girl Afghan robotics team assemble components for a circuit board they are building, at the laboratory of Qatar's Texas A&M university in the capital Doha on 14 September 2021. The nine members of the robotics team evacuated from Kabul to Qatar have acquired star status and captured the hearts of those they have met since fleeing their homeland. Now back in education and working on their entries for a global robotics competition, the girls worry about their uncertain present but hope they can one day return to Afghanistan. (Photo by KARIM JAAFAR/AFP via Getty Images)

Texas A&M Will Close Qatar Campus, Citing Changing Priorities and Regional Instability

American university Texas A&M announced it would close its branch campus in Qatar by 2028, citing “heightened regional instability” and an effort to focus the university’s core mission back on “educating and serving Texans while advancing knowledge and innovation through world-class research,” according to a university press release.

Texas A&M has had a branch in Qatar for more than 20 years, graduating more than 1,500 engineering students through a focus on chemical, electrical, mechanical, and petroleum engineering.

“The decision does not immediately change operations or services on the campus,” the release said. “Under terms of the contract with the Qatar Foundation, the termination will take four years. In the coming days, the university administration will assemble a team to ensure several imperatives: Students complete their education, faculty and staff are supported, and research obligations are appropriately fulfilled.”

Qatar issued a reply, calling the move “misguided” and “influenced by a disinformation campaign.”

The decision comes amid increased tensions in the Middle East due to the war in Gaza and rising criticism of Qatar for the country’s ties to Hamas, The Washington Post reported.

“Texas A&M University was attacked for its ties to Qatar in a January letter from an antisemitism watchdog group,” the Post noted. “The letter accused the university of involvement in a covert deal that gave Qatar control of nuclear weapons technology and described Qatar as a country that supports Hamas and other armed groups.”

University officials firmly disavowed these claims, and they rebuffed accusations that the “misinformation campaign” influenced their decision to close the Qatar campus.

“The misinformation campaign had no bearing on Thursday’s decision by the Board of Regents, which was made following a close analysis of the university’s mission and the evolving political situation in the Middle East,” said Texas A&M system spokesperson Mike Reilly in a statement on 8 February, as reported by The Texas Tribune. “Discussions about branch and remote campuses are ongoing and had begun before false information was reported about Texas A&M and Qatar.”

Timmy Davis, the U.S. ambassador to Qatar, said he was “disappointed Texas A&M is taking steps to close its Qatar campus,” which “represents (U.S.) campus and inspires innovation for students who might otherwise not have access to an American education,” The Mountaineer reported.

Texas A&M is one of six American universities with a location in Qatar’s Education City, including Virginia Commonwealth University, Georgetown University, and Northwestern University, the Tribune explained. The University of London ended its contract with the Qatar Foundation in 2020 as part of changes to the system’s academic priorities.