Qatar is a monarchy ruled by the Al-Thani family since the mid-18th century. The country used to be a British protectorate but gained its independence in 1971.
The current emir, Sheikh Hamad bin Khalifa Al-Thani, assumed his position since 1995 and acts as the head of state. Prime Minister Hamad bin Jasim bin Jabir al-Thani is the head of government since April 2007.
Qatar is a unitary government divided into 10 administrative divisions or municipalities. In 1999 and 2003, Qatar held nationwide elections to the Central Municipal Council.
The monarch holds executive and legislative powers and appoints judicial positions. The Council of Ministers is the state cabinet and members are appointed by the emir. The municipal council can advise the emir on local issues but it has no authority to pass civic laws and can be dissolved by the minister of municipal affairs.
The unicameral Advisory Council can scrutinize policies and make recommendations but has no legislative power. Elections for some positions in the Advisory Council will take place in late 2007 but the remaining members are appointed by the emir. Qatar's Constitution entered into force in 2005.
The judiciary system in Qatar has two main divisions: the Sharia courts and the civil system. Sharia or Islamic law focuses on personal and family issues and certain criminal cases. The civil system tries cases against the state and all other cases not heard in Sharia courts.
The Ministry of Education and the Supreme Education Council are the government agencies in charge of all levels of learning in Qatar. The Higher Education Institute assists Qatari students in the tertiary level. The Education for a New Era is a recent reform initiative to increase autonomy, accountability, variety and choice in Qatari education. The premier public tertiary educational institution is Qatar University.
United Arab Emirates
The United Arab Emirates is a federation of seven Gulf states: Abu Dhabi, Ajman, Dubai, Fujairah, Ras al-Khaimah, Sharjah, and Ummal-Qaiwain. During the 19th century, Britain entered into agreements with the Arab sheikhs for mutual protection and transit in the Persian Gulf. The leaders formed a loose federation when Britain withdrew in 1971.
UAE's government is a federal presidential elected monarchy. The ruler of Abu Dhabi becomes the President of UAE and acts as the head of state. The current President of UAE is Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed al Nahayan, who succeeded his father, Sheikh Zayed, the founder of UAE, when the latter died in 2004. The ruler of Dubai becomes the Vice-President and Prime Minister of UAE and acts as the head of government. The current Prime Minister is Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, who assumed office in 2006.
The monarchs of each state are members of the Supreme Council of Rulers, the highest body that formulates policy, elects the federal president, ratifies federal laws and appoints judges to the Federal Supreme Court. Each emir retains autonomy over his sheikhdom and determines his own state's policy, especially over mineral rights and revenues.
The Federal National Council is the legislature of the UAE. Half of the members are elected; the other half are appointed by the rulers. The FNC can recommend and review legislation but cannot change or veto laws. UAE had a provisional constitution since independence until 1996, when the constitution became permanent and Abu Dhabi was made the capital.
The legal system is based on a dual system of Sharia and civil courts. The Federal Supreme Court is the highest court in the UAE judicial system and its judges are appointed by the President. The FSC decides legal cases between individual emirates and over the federal government.
The Ministry of Higher Education oversees public tertiary education and admits students to state undergraduate institutions. UAE's public tertiary educational institutions include United Arab Emirates University, Zayed University, Gulf Medical College, University of Sharjah and Higher Colleges of Technology.
The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia is ruled by the family of Abdul Aziz ibn Saud, the founder of the country. The current ruler is King Abdullah, half-brother of the late King Fahd and son of the first leader of KSA. The king acts as head of state and head of government.
The Saudi monarchy is the central government institution in the country. The Council of Ministers, which is appointed by the king, forms policies and directs the activities of the bureaucracy. KSA has 13 administrative divisions, whose governors are appointed by the king. In 2005, the first municipal elections were held in Saudi Arabia.
Sharia or Islamic law is the basis for the country's legal system. The Quran is the constitution of Saudi Arabia. The Basic Law of 1992 supplements Sharia and describes the government's rights and responsibilities.
Similarities and Differences
Qatar, KSA and UAE share many key similarities in their governments. These states are monarchies where the ruling families have retained power for many yearx. The monarchs often hold executive and legislative authority. Legislative and municipal councils can consult and advise the rulers but have no power to change or make laws. Although the states are not democracies, the citizens can consult with their rulers on certain issues. While Islamic law is a basis for governance, there are many secular and civil codes on economic issues. There is little or no taxation for citizens.
The educational systems in the three states share many qualities. Citizens in these countries enjoy free education from nursery to university. Governments provide many services to students and institutions of higher learning. The states give subsidies and support to students in their degrees at home and overseas.
However, the countries also share some issues on population, education and employment. The states have high population growth rates and majority of the citizens are young people. Many foreigners work in these states and compete with citizens for work. Governments have responded to these issues by focusing on job creation and skills training to boost local employment.
Although Qatar, KSA and UAE share many characteristics, several key differences and striking features exist in their governments and education systems. For example, UAE is a federation while Qatar and KSA are unitary states. In KSA, the King acts as both of head of state and head of government. On the other hand, Qatar and UAE have different rulers assuming the roles of head of state and head of government.
The governments also differed in their focus on tertiary education. Qatar is importing more Western expertise and creating more linkages with other universities. UAE is focusing on research and building more science and technology centers. All three countries are sending more of its citizens to study and train overseas.