SR2b Saudi plan to establish varsities, research centres

JEDDAH — A group of Saudi investors plan to establish a joint stock company with a capital of SR2 billion in order to set up advanced private universities and research centres. The new firm is expected to start functioning by the end of the year.

By From Our Correspondent

Published: Fri 19 Aug 2005, 12:30 PM

Last updated: Thu 2 Apr 2015, 4:15 PM

A consultative committee comprising experts and intellectuals specialising in all scientific subjects would be formed in the first phase. Experts would later draft the university's educational system and identify its location. Consultative offices would be selected to conduct necessary studies and an agreement would be signed with an international university.

The project's backers say they are already in talks with a number of US universities to set up affiliated campuses in the Kingdom, a trend already underway in Qatar, Bahrain and the United Arab Emirates.

Dr Ibrahim Al-Awaji, who runs a company specialising in organising conferences in Riyadh, said on Tuesday that the company aims at producing highly qualified graduates, comparable with those of international universities.

The company intends to establish universities in Riyadh, Jeddah and Dammam to teach subjects including medicine, pharmacy and accountancy, all of which are in great demand.

He stressed the need for specialised institutions of higher learning to supply qualified professionals in the areas of industry, technology and health. "Specialised institutes are also required for financial and administrative sciences, insurance, capital market and other important subjects required by the country," he explained.

According to Al-Kharashi Consultants, which is helping set up the project, the new firm is expected to start functioning by the end of the year. The lion's share of its capital would be met by its founders while the rest would be floated for public subscription by prospective investors or government institutions or research centres.

In the long run, the ownership of the universities would be transferred to a non-profitable charitable organisation, and part of the company's profits would be set aside for charity.

The project would also cater to the needs of the Kingdom's more than six million expatriate community, as it would provide their children admission to its universities and research centres.

"This will help expatriates have family stability. At present, they have to send their children abroad for higher studies, thousands of miles away from their families," Al-Awaji said.

He added that the new company would also serve the interests of Saudi women. "At present universities do not offer women courses in scientific specialisations required by labour market," he said.

According to Dr Mohamed Al-Saleh, secretary-general of the Higher Education Council, the government has already licensed two private universities — Prince Sultan University and Al-Faisal University and 12 private colleges.

With the opening of new universities in Jizan, Hail and Al-Jouf, the number of state-run universities in the Kingdom would reach 15 including King Saud University for Health Sciences under the National Guard.

Studies are under way to transform 102 existing women's colleges into women's universities. King Abdullah has already instructed authorities to merge the six women's colleges in Riyadh into a single university.

Al-Saleh said that the higher education ministry had given preliminary licenses to about 60 investors to establish private colleges in various parts of the country. "Licensing procedures for some of these colleges have reached final stages," he said.

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