King Abdullah University of Science and Technology!

27 10 2007

Groundbreaking of KAUST, Oct 27On October 22 King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia held a groundbreaking ceremony for a new university in Thawal called the King Abdullah University of Science and Technology (KAUST).

With one of the largest university endowments in the world, KAUST is using MIT as a model and is aiming to be world-class in every respect – students, faculty, facilities. The website is also quite impressive.

I am jumping-off-the-walls excited about this. One hindrance to development in the Arab world is the lack of original research going on at the universities. A lot of countries have an awful brain-drain effect going on, and as a result the academic community is generally not thriving.

So a university like this, which has the potential to keep some of the brain power of the Middle East in the Middle East, is a big deal. It’s very exciting.

KAUST will be co-ed – a fact that is pretty significant in Saudi Arabia. It will be the first co-ed university in the country.

Saudis can be hardcore conservatives–The Saudi national motto is the Shahadah.  And very conservative Saudis are often less than approving of their royal family, who sometimes appear to be pretending conservatism to avoid revolt. It’s inevitable that King Abdullah will face criticism from within the kingdom for this – probably harsh criticism.

Anyway, it might be very difficult for KAUST to attract non-Saudi women, Muslim or otherwise. Living in Saudi Arabia as a single woman with no family would be damned near impossible, even if the university you were attending was progressive.

More on KAUST: