The graduation ceremony at Qatar University this week - always a happy occasion - was extra special this year, as two students received the first Ph.D.s ever given by the university.

Maan Mohammed Jalal Haj Rashid, who received a Ph.D. from the Computer Science and Engineering Department, and Alaa Ghassan Aboutaqa, from the Civil Engineering Department, joined more than 1,400 students in the graduation ceremonies held Wednesday and Thursday.

In addition to the Ph.D. programs in engineering, which were launched in 2011, Qatar University is accepting the first candidates for its Gulf Studies Ph.D. this fall and has announced a new Biological and Environmental Sciences program.

First established in 1973 by the emir, Qatar University embarked on a program in the 2000s to modernize and expand into a world-class research institute.

With more than 14,000 students enrolled currently, 65 percent of whom are Qatari nationals, the university is a key part of the gulf state’s National Vision 2030 that aims to increase citizen’s role in all sectors of the country’s economy, many of which are currently filled largely by expats.