Transplanting education: a case study of the production of 'American-style' doctors in a non-American setting
This thesis examines the transfer of an American pedagogical model to the Arabian Gulf against the wider context of the globalisation of higher education. Weill Cornell Medical College in Qatar is used as a case study to examine how American medical knowledge and professional practice are transmitted to and assimilated by an Arabic social setting. It considers the workings of what is presumed to be a universal pedagogical model by examining how the degree is culturally translated and localised in Qatar. It addresses the question of whether or not the Cornell degree of “Doctor of Medicine” is simply an American product transplanted to the Middle East, or rather a malleable artefact: sought out, manipulated and shaped by the Qataris for their own ends. Medical education necessitates a highly challenging process of acculturation that is amplified for Arabic-educated students who enter the American medical curriculum without many of the values derived from a Western educational system. In addition to language, students from Arabic-medium schools cite dress, familial, cultural and ethical dissonance as issues that had to be negotiated while undertaking the degree. Students enrolled at the American-style medical college currently divide their clinical training between the Gulf and America. The structure of the imported curriculum and biomedical practices generated in the metropole demand that students become bilingually competent in both Arab and American health care systems. The “American way” of doing things, however, does not always translate or conform to cultural mores and standard practice within the Gulf setting. This thesis follows Arab students as they move between the coeducational American academic setting and local health care facilities, examining the ways that the physicians-in-training contextualise, appropriate and reconstruct the medical degree according to their own cultural referential framework. The thesis introduces the language of “transplantation” as a heuristic tool through which the globalisation of higher education might be explored conceptually. It is an ethnography of an emergent educational transplant propagated in a globalised era, which explores novel modes of knowledge transfer, institutional and social arrangements across local and transnational boundaries, changing subjectivities and the generation of new life forms. In a setting in the Islamic world, Weill Cornell Medical College in Qatar provides a strategic site for observing the dynamics of a nation and its people grappling with modernity. Through its production of Americanstyle doctors in a non-American setting, Cornell’s transnational medical school serves as a niche through which to explore the tensions that arise in global models of tertiary education.