UQ and the Middle East and North Africa

Creating a better future together

UQ is collaborating with institutions throughout the Middle East and North Africa to find solutions to humanitarian, security, economic, political, and social challenges – many of which have global implications.

Fast facts


MENA students enrolled at UQ


MENA-UQ co-publications


academic staff born in MENA


research project collaborations


alumni in MENA


agreements with 6 official partners

Fast facts show full-year 2020 data.



In the past 5 years, UQ has produced more than 1671 co-publications with researchers in the Middle East and North Africa, largely in the areas of Chemistry, Multidisciplinary Environmental Sciences Biochemistry & Molecular Biology. Our top co-publishing partners include King Saud University (Saudi Arabia), Hebrew University of Jerusalem (Israel), and Tel Aviv University (Israel).

Research collaborations

In the past 5 years, UQ has collaborated with 10 Middle Eastern and North African institutions on 15 research projects. Key collaborators include King Abdullah University of Science and Technology (Saudi Arabia), Qatar University, and Kuwait University.

Research funding

Middle Eastern and North African organisations, including King Abdullah University of Science and Technology, King Faisal University, and Vega Industries FZC have contributed A$2,242,751 towards 18 research projects in the past 5 years.

Collaboration in action

UQ partners with Saudi Arabia to fight superbugs

UQ Centre for Clinical Research Professor David Paterson and Honorary Fellow Dr Hosam Zowawi are collaborating with microbiologists at King Abdullah University for Science and Technology (Saudi Arabia) to explore antibiotic-resistant bacteria. The research is focussed on identifying the link between superbugs found in environmental settings to those associated with clinical infections. Acinetobacter baumannii, a bacteria associated with hospital-acquired infections, has been found in Saudi Arabia, United Arab Emirates, Kuwait, Qatar, Oman, and Bahrain. The results of this study will assist hospitals to minimise the risk of spreading superbugs between patients and across international borders.

UQ scientist and Presidents united against cancer

After the first UN high-level meeting on Universal Health Coverage, over 350 global leaders from more than 80 countries came together for the 2019 World Cancer Leaders’ Summit in Kazakhstan. UQ’s Professor Ian Frazer AC was one of three shortlisted – globally – for the inaugural award for ‘Outstanding Contribution to Cancer Control’ – alongside the Presidents of Zambia, and Uruguay (winner). Professor Frazer (pictured) and late colleague, Professor Jian Zhou, created the technology that led to a cervical cancer vaccine, which has cut the rate of cervical cancer-causing infections in Australian women by almost 90 per cent. This vaccine is now available worldwide.

Turning mining waste into top soil

School of Agriculture and Food Sciences Professor Richard Haynes is the lead researcher on a project funded by Emirates Global Aluminium (EGA) to turn alumina bulk site residue into usable top soil. The UAE Environmental Protection Agency provided permission to EGA to build two alumina refineries in the Abu Dhabi desert only if they produced zero waste. The project to achieve zero waste commenced mid-2017 with a budget of AUD 1.4 million. Professor Haynes reports that early findings show plants can grow well in soil currently produced. Due to this success, EGA has extended the project for another four years and doubled their funding. A research facility is also being built in Abu Dhabi to extend the work in UAE.

Genome sequencing to improve Jojoba resilience

The Queensland Alliance for Agriculture and Food Innovation (QAAFI) and King Faisal University (KFU) Faculty of Agriculture and Food Sciences in Saudi Arabia collaborate on genome editing using OMICs technology. Like parts of Queensland, drought and salinity cause significant agricultural problems in the Arabian Peninsula. This research seeks to find and manipulate novel stress-related genes that confer climatic resilience to Jojoba – a plant that tolerates harsh environmental conditions. Research in this area is supported by an agreement between KFU and QAAFI, with KFU contributing $940,000 towards the cost of the research and to also fund postgraduate student research at UQ. Jojoba foliage provides year-round food for many animals, including livestock. 

Middle Eastern and North African students at UQ

In the past 5 years, more than 830 students from the Middle East and North Africa have been enrolled in UQ degrees. PhD studies, the Master of Magnetic Resonance Technology, and Bachelor of Engineering (Honours) are popular program choices.

Student societies at UQ provide great opportunities to share interests and build community. They include the Arab Students Association, the Omani Society, the Persian Society, and a wide range of faith groups.

Video: Saudi PhD student Betoul Baz discusses her experience studying the genetics of skin wound healing at the UQ Centre for Clinical Research.

Celebrating Middle Eastern cultures

The permanent exhibition 'Egypt: Land of the Pharaohs' opened at the RD Milns Antiquities Museum in 2015. Archaeology honours students have studied artefacts in the collection and, after dating fragments of coptic tunic, found the clothing was produced early in the 7th century – 200-400 years earlier than previously thought. 

In addition, UQ’s Institute of Modern Languages (IML) offers ArabicFarsi, and Hebrew courses for the wider community.

Image: A 2400-year old Egyptian mummy mask remains one of the RD Milns Antiquities Museum's most popular attractions.

Student mobility

Partnering with UAE for a sustainable future

UQ's Global Change Institute (GCI) partners with Sharjah Research Academy in the United Arab Emirates (UAE). With broad collaboration in the areas of coastal zone management, sustainable water technologies, food systems, and renewable energy innovation, the agreement enables graduate student exchanges as well as joint research projects.

Tel Aviv startup adventure

In December 2019, 20 student entrepreneurs from UQ's Idea Hub travelled to Tel Aviv to participate in a four-week intensive internship with 10 different startups. Known as the ‘startup nation’, Israel offered students the experience to learn first-hand about startups and the toils and joy involved in building a business from the ground up.

Archaeological digs in Turkey

Associate Professor Andrew Fairbairn from UQ's School of Social Science takes students on field trips to Turkish archaeological sites every year. Associate Professor Fairbairn has regularly spent time in Turkey since joining UQ in 2006. His research focuses on the development of the farming economy, and its influence in the Neolithic Age through to the Iron Age.


UQ has more than 1200 alumni from the Middle East and North Africa. Alumni with significant links to the region include:

Saudi Arabia

Microbiologist and Young Laureates of Rolex recipient (Doctor of Philosophy 2014)
United Arab Emirates

Executive Chairman at Palladium (formerly GRM International) (Bachelor of Agricultural Science, 1981)
United Arab Emirates

Managing Director - Head Africa and Middle East (AME) Real Estate Banking at Standard Chartered Bank (Bachelor of Commerce, Bachelor of Economics 1998)
Saudi Arabia

Executive Director for Products Evaluation and Standards Setting at Saudi Food & Drug Authority Saudi Arabia (Master of BioTechnology 2007, Doctor of Biotechnology 2012)
United Arab Emirates

Partner, Head of Forensics at KPMG Lower Gulf (Bachelor of Commerce 1999)