In 2005, a branch of Georgetown University's Edmund A. Walsh School of Foreign Service opened in Education City, Qatar. Several other American universities, including Northwestern, Texas A&M, Carnegie Mellon and Cornell, also offer programs at the location. Fear and Loathing in Georgetown, however, thinks Georgetown's presence was and is a huge mistake for a variety of reasons.
The ability to offer a classroom experience equal to the main campus is a concern. If some of the best professors from Washington, who have been part of the environment on the Hilltop, are sent to Qatar to teach at the branch campus, then necessarily the main campus in Georgetown suffers. If Georgetown sends only the weakest of Georgetown professors, then the education in Qatar is subpar. Either way one of the campuses suffer from the expansion. Prior to 2005, Georgetown professors both shaped and were shaped by the intellectual culture on the Hilltop. If Georgetown hires professors specifically for the new campus, even if these professors are of the academic and professional caliber required by Georgetown, they still have never been a part of the academic community in Washington. Furthermore, many of the world-famous practitioners that teach classes at Georgetown will never teach in Qatar.
The students in Qatar will have an entirely different experience outside of classroom. The environment on the Hilltop is unique. It cannot be recreated. I'm certain that a lively academic culture and environment can or has been created in Education City, but it will never be the Hilltop. The shared experiences of our time on the Hilltop is what binds Georgetown alumni together, and yet in the future some Georgetown alumni will have never set foot on campus. It may seem trivial, but, for example, they will never have enjoyed a chicken madness.
I have no idea how the School of Foreign Service's presence in Qatar benefits either the university or the school in a strategic, long-term sense. As far as I can discern, the school is a glorified finishing school for the royalty of Qatar and the surrounding Gulf States. The small size only goes to reinforce this in my mind. Yes, there are non-royal students, but in my mind they are window dressing. Perhaps Georgetown will have an influence on the statecraft of the Qatar and the Gulf States through this endeavor, but perhaps not. A recent article in The Hoya mentioned that most Qatari students are unprepared for the rigors of a Georgetown education. Either way, I don't particularly care.
In conclusion, the campus there cannot recreate the Hilltop. The negatives far outweigh any potential non-monetary upside. (The Qataris chipped in the capital to start the campus and some extra.) A liberal arts education takes place both inside and outside the classroom. Therefore, a degree from SFS-Q can never be the same as one from the Hilltop. Can it be the equal of an education on the Hilltop? Possibly, but it will never be the same. I would be less concerned if the campus was offering a Masters of Science in Foreign Service rather than the Bachelors.
The campus culture is far less important for a professional program. Yet, Georgetown has no intention of offering the MSFS anywhere except in Washington. Perhaps they worry about the ability to maintain the high standards of the MSFS curriculum. While it seems easier to offer a quality undergraduate education when looking at the ability to provide instructors for the courses, classrooms instruction is by no means the only important criteria in an undergraduate education. So, I would argue that it is more difficult to create a quality environment for undergraduates then it is to gather the faculty expertise and strength to offer a world-class professional program.
I sincerely hope that Georgetown recognizes its mistake soon.