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Arkansas State University has been given the green light to move ahead with plans for an off-campus site in Doha, Qatar.

The Higher Learning Commission, Arkansas State’s accreditor, approved the plan on Friday, completing a trifecta of approvals along with the university’s Board of Trustees and the state Department of Education.

Arkansas State will offer three degree programs students can complete in Doha: a Bachelor of Science in Digital Technology and Design, a Bachelor of Science in Engineering Management Systems, and a Master of Science in Educational Leadership. Courses will be offered in partnership with the Global Studies Institute, which has worked with the university since 2020.

Currently the program is entirely remote; Qatari students receive instruction from Arkansas State professors while sitting in Doha classrooms. Chris Boothman, Arkansas State’s senior associate vice chancellor for distance education and technology, said the university is exploring opportunities to expand the partnership to an exchange program.

“We are working on creating pathways for Qatar students to complete their first year or two in Doha before coming to the Jonesboro campus,” he wrote in a statement announcing the approval.

Establishing a presence in Qatar has become a politically fraught endeavor for American universities. The go-ahead on Arkansas’ Qatar site comes just a few months after Texas A&M University announced it was abruptly shuttering its branch campus in Doha’s Education City after 21 years. The decision came after months of political pressure following the release of a study purportedly linking Qatari education and research entities to Hamas, though A&M officials said it was merely about prioritizing domestic initiatives.

And during a hearing on campus antisemitism last month, Republican Congressman Burgess Owens questioned Northwestern University president Michael Schill about his institution’s branch campus in Doha, accusing Northwestern of partnering with “a government that harbors terrorists.”

In a statement, Arkansas State officials made clear that GSI is a privately funded institute “not associated with the Qatari government,” and that all revenue would be generated purely through international student tuition and fees.