As the new President and Provost of the Doha Institute for Graduate Studies (DI), it is my pleasure to welcome the readers of this page, especially aspiring students and colleagues who want to join us. Admissions for the new cohort of students are now open, and we encourage students from around the Arab region and beyond to take this opportunity to join one of the most prestigious graduate institutions in the region.

Last September, DI celebrated its fifth anniversary, and the admission of the sixth cohort of its students. This coincided with the inauguration of two new programs in its two schools, and the appointment of a new acting president and three new deans, two for each school and one for Student Affairs. Three of our programs have also received international accreditation. Last May, DI celebrated the graduation of the fourth cohort of students.

This record of achievements enabled DI to gain international recognition and regional distinction as a leading Arab institution of higher learning. It is also the embodiment its vision, "Promoting global excellence in the Arab world and showcasing Arab excellence internationally." DI cooperates closely with academic institutions in Qatar and the Arab world to meet the highest standards in teaching, learning and research, enabling Arab scholars to make their mark globally as original contributors to the production of knowledge to the benefit of the region and whole world. The Institute enjoys international esteem and has partnerships with leading universities in both North and South America, Europe, Asia and Africa, and of course in most Arab countries. Many of its graduates have enrolled in doctoral programs at leading universities around the world, and many work with distinction in various fields in Qatar and elsewhere: universities, general education, diplomacy, media, public administration, business, health, social work, humanitarian agencies, the military, police, etc. Last month, I received a communication from one of our few Western graduates, who now works as a diplomat at the UN in New York for his country, which is an EU member.

One of the greatest achievements this year was the record number of students applying for admission (over ten thousand, rising from just around 1300 five years ago). Consequently, the number of students admitted reached 269 this year, another record, more than a third of them from Qatar. Also, our programs grew from ten in 2015 to eighteen this year. Currently, DI is preparing to launch a PhD program, already approved by the Ministry of Education and Higher Education in Qatar. This is going to be another major achievement.

This success was due chiefly to DI's distinctive vision, striving as it does to provide a unique arena for teaching and advancing the social and sciences and humanities, as well as public administration, public policy and development economics. This effort was enhanced by attracting highly qualified professors from all over the world, on an open competitive basis. Equally, the Institute has extremely competent attracted administrative cadres who show enormous dedication to their work. All our staff are committed to the DI vision of excellence and service.  On this account, students from Qatar and all over the Arab world are provided with an ideal environment conducive to acquiring knowledge in accordance with the best international standards, with help from experienced professors with high ambitions and proven accomplishments.

The establishment of the Doha Institute for Graduate Studies in 2015 came in response to an urgent academic need for the advancement of the social sciences and humanities in the Arab world. Although the promotion of modern sciences in general, and higher education in particular, has remained an Arab priority since the beginning of the Arab Renaissance over two centuries earlier, the social sciences and humanities have not received the attention and support they need and deserve. This has been mainly to the focus of modern state builders on applied sciences, as well as the students' preference for these sciences and professional specializations that provide better job prospects. On the other hand, the narrow margin of academic freedoms and open dialogue available in most Arab countries did not provide a conducive environment for the flourishing of social sciences and humanities.

DI has emerged out of the Arab Center for Research and Policy Studies, a pioneering research centre established in 2010, providing a dynamic arena for addressing the challenges affecting the aspirations towards an Arab renaissance. It continues to conduct cutting-edge research and in-depth deliberations on contemporary Arab concerns. The establishment of the Centre had coincided with another manifestation of the yearning for the long-awaited Arab renaissance, exemplified by the peoples' revolutions that surprised the world. These uprising were very revealing about the dearth of academic knowledge in academia of Arab realities and genuine aspirations. These movements defied not just brutal repression, but also the veil of ignorance displayed by supposed experts. The uprisings also demonstrated the determination of enlightened Arab youth to effect positive change.

Based on its experience and the assessment of the trends in the region, the management of the Center decided, following broad consultations with a broad range of Arab scholars and thinkers from different locations, diverse disciplinary backgrounds and long involvement in higher education internationally and regionally, to establish this pioneering institute to advance teaching and research in this vital domain. The mission of the Institute is to build on the achievements of contemporary human knowledge, while adopting a critical stance towards some of its inadequacies, rather being just passive recipients of its fruits. Rather, the goal is to achieve parity in the field of knowledge production, especially when it is related to our region, our culture and our language. Therefore, the strategic partnership between the DI and the Arab Center (along with the Doha Historical Dictionary for the Arabic Language) is important to achieving these goals. This is done by pooling resources on research, and promoting Arabic as the language of instruction and research, without neglecting international languages. Proficiency in English is a key requirement for admission to DI. This policy stems from the conviction that indigenizing the sciences in the Arab region and developing the Arabic language as a tool for teaching and learning are key to a real Arab renaissance. The partnership between the two institutions aims to stimulate research, foster scientific cooperation and communication regionally and globally, and produce pioneering studies in various fields of social sciences and humanities.

The Center's publications have attained a wide audience and are now being made available in English partnership with leading publishers. The Center has also established branches in France and the USA, which publish original research in the languages of those countries.  Many among DI's professors also publish original research in English and other languages. This, together with international partnerships and with researchers from around the world, enhances the international standing of DI and the Centre as key actors in international knowledge production and in global academic dialogue.

The Institute's contributions are not limited to the theoretical level, but it dedicates effort to practical engagement, especially in disciplines such as clinical psychology, social work, conflict studies, humanitarian work and journalism. Here, practical training is an integral part of the study programs. It is the same with specializations like public administration, public policy and development economics, where the courses include practical training. DI has also launched a number of executive programs in the fields of public administration and diplomacy, as well as the EMBA/EMPA Dual Degree Master in business and public administration, in partnership with the European School of Management and Technology (ESMT) in Berlin. Practical training contributes to strengthening DI's ties with the wider Qatari community and enables its engagement in community service, another central goal of the Institute.

While taking its first steps, DI faced major challenges. Besides the main challenge posed by its ambitious goals, DI was launched and became fully functional while its current buildings were still under construction. Now, the whole building is considered an architectural masterpiece, providing classroom space, as well as housing for professors and students. Later, we confronted with the whole Qatar the hostile 2017 blockade. Currently, we are facing with Qatar and the world the Coronavirus pandemic (Covid-19, and the related crises that have changed the face of the world, especially educational institutions that face unprecedented challenges. Fortunately, the Institute adapted quickly, as it continued its teaching operations after a break of only one day, that was devoted to training in new technologies. However, the pandemic is still a challenge for the educational process, as the Institute is taking all the necessary measures to safeguard the health of safety of all its staff, students, and visitors. It is also doing its best to protect its administrative and financial viability. We hope that the Institute, and with it the State of Qatar, will achieve another success in dealing with COVID-19 and its effects, adding to many previous successes.

I take the occasion to thank the State of Qatar and people for their vital support that this project continues to receive. It is well known that the establishment of a scientific institution of such size and ambition is not achieved by the mere provision of buildings and financial support. A conducive atmosphere must also be created that permits science to flourish. This is what Qatar has offered by adopting a proactive policy of cultivating learning and scientific progress. The success of the Institute is another remarkable Qatari achievement of Qatar, which enhances its position as a leading space for development and education.

It is really a great honour to be asked to lead such an illustrious and ambitious educational project, and it is also a huge responsibility. I would like to thank all those who had contributed to conceiving this important project, and labored to make it a reality. I cannot here name all those who have made vital contributions to this project, but I would like to thank my predecessor in the presidency, Dr Yasir Suleiman Malley, who had made significant contributions to DI's success. Thanks also to the first generation of founders, especially the former Deans, Dr Rashid Enany, Dr Hassan Ali and Dr Faisal Al Mansouri, Dr Suleiman Abu Badr, Dr Abderrahim Benhada, Dr Elia Zureik, and Dr Hamid Dabashi. Thanks to all of them, and to many I did not mention.

Last but not least, I thank the members of the Board of Trustees, former and current, and the Chair of the Board, Dr Azmi Bishara, for producing the vision that made this Institute a reality, and for continuing to vigilantly hold it up to the highest standards. I also thank them for entrusting me with this pivotal role and the responsibilities it entails. I pray I will fulfil my duties in the best of ways, to the benefit of the Institute, its community, Qatar and the rest of the Arab world.

Dr Abdelwahab El Affendi

President and Provost