Saudi Arabia opens luxury, co-educational university KAUST /PHOTO

Saudi Arabia opened its first co-educational university, a high-tech campus with massive funds.

Saudi Arabia opens luxury, co-educational university KAUST /PHOTO

Saudi Arabia opened its first co-educational university on Wednesday, a high-tech campus with massive funds.

King Abdullah University of Science and Technology (KAUST) is expected to attract more than 70 professors and 800 students from abroad.

King Abdullah was due to inaugurate late on Wednesday the university 80 km (50 miles) north of Jeddah in the presence of regional leaders, Western officials.

"The community's design facilitates access to the Red Sea and encourages active, healthy living and group interaction," says the KAUST website.

Supporters are presenting KAUST as a tangible gain for the king's plans, which have included more long-term projects such as an overhaul of courts, the education system and building "economic cities" to create jobs for the young population.

One of the main goals is to produce Saudi scientists but so far locals, who had to compete in a tough admission, make up only 15 percent of students coming from 61 countries, said KAUST President Choon Fong Shih of Singapore.

"There is no doubt that many of the talented Saudis will enrol at this university," said Oil Minister Ali al-Naimi, adding that KAUST would impact Saudi society as a whole.

Located next to the Red Sea village of Thuwal, the 36-square mile campus has lured scientists from abroad with luxury packages.

Unlike in Saudi universities, male and women students can attend classes together and mix in cafes.

With more than 70 green spaces, gyms, clinics, spacious residential districts and staff driving around in electric cars there is no reason to leave the campus, which is based far away from the prying eyes of the religious police.


Staff hires were full of praise for the university.

"One of the motivations (to come here) was that ... anything that I would dream of is here," said India's Kultaransingh Hooghan, a computer researcher who just relocated to Thuwal.

"There is no barrier in science," said Jasmeen Merzaban, an assistant professor of biochemistry at the university. "Whether you are a woman or a man, working side by side you don't look at the gender at all. It's all based on science."

KAUST is run by state oil company Aramco. It is outside the control of the education ministry.


Last Mod: 24 Eylül 2009, 11:22
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