To the West, the idea of a modern, gender-equal, progressive sort of academic environment seems incongruous with Saudi Arabia’s religious establishment. However, the current ruler, King Abdullah, is investing $12.5 billion in creating just such an environment–a graduate research institution where religious police will be barred and women and men will conduct research in collaboration. Currently, women’s career options in other areas are severely limited, and co-ed institutions required men and women to enter through separate doors, and remain behind partitions.
The campus will be built, and the faculty recruited, by the state-owned oil giant Saudi Aramco. Currently the “King Abdullah University of Science and Technology,” or Kaust, is being built behind a large wall.
The new project is giving hope to Saudi scholars who until the king’s push to reform education in the last few years have endured stagnant research budgets and continue to face extensive government red tape.
“Because Aramco is founding the university, I believe it will have freedom,” said Abdulmalik A. Aljinaidi, dean of the research and consultation institute at King Abdulaziz University, Jidda’s biggest, with more than 40,000 students. “For Kaust to succeed, it will have to be free of all the restrictions and bureaucracy we face as a public university.”
The website of the new university is here.
From the sound of it, they will be recruiting academics from all over the world, offering positions and grants that “they perhaps would not have had at home.” With the tenure situation how it is in America, they may have no problem filling their quota.