Can Saudi Arabia Build an MIT?

Category: Faith & Spirituality, Life & Society, Middle East Values: Education Views: 6278

$10 Billion Says "Yes" as Desert School Opens

King Abdullah University of Science and Technology (KAUST),  is the nation's first independent, international graduate-level research university.

King Abdullah opened the kingdom of Saudi Arabia today to a throng of foreign dignitaries, government officials, scientists, and guests to show off his new King Abdullah University of Science and Technology (KAUST). 

The multi-billion dollar project is a graduate institution with designs on crashing a list of the world's top 20 research universities. It's a tall order for a school that sits on a 32 sq. km. slab of desert that hugs the Red Sea north of Jeddah, the country's second largest city. But the 70-odd scientists that form the founding faculty--along with 400 students who began classes on 5 September--won't be lacking for money or equipment. 

The king has put his considerable power and authority behind the university, a message reinforced by holding the inaugural ceremony on the country's National Day holiday. He's hoping that KAUST will help to move the country from an oil-based to a knowledge-based economy, a task that the university's president, Choon Fong Shih, expresses with a simple formula: "Hire the best minds and find practical applications for their discoveries."

In addition to tapping $1.5 billion in core facilities that include the first supercomputer in the region, an industrial-class a nofabrication lab, a top-rated visualization center, and a dozen state-of-the-art nuclear magnetic resonance machines, faculty members will get from $400,000 to $800,000 apiece per year for 5 years to outfit and staff their labs. 

The chance to spend their time on research rather than grant applications has been a big drawing card, say faculty members, who come from around the world: About 20% hail from the United States, and another 30% left jobs in Germany, Canada, and China to come to KAUST. The student body is equally diverse geographically: Saudis comprise about 15% of the first class, followed closely by China, Mexico, and the United States. The school's endowment is $10 billion.

In addition the being the first university in the country to allow the mixing of men and women in both the classroom and the lab, KAUST has abandoned the usual departments in favor of interdisciplinary research centers. Each center targets an important challenge for the country, from improved desalination techniques and growing crops resistant to drought and salt to the massive production and distribution of solar energy. It also plans to examine all facets of the Red Sea ecosystem, a relatively unexplored body of water. 

Speaking at the inauguration, Shih predicted success within a generation. "I can see the cover of The Economist in its issue of September 2029. 'Sea water and solar power green the desert. KAUST scientists and entrepreneurs tell their story.' " The proof will come in publications, patents, and products. But few in the audience are betting against him.

Source: American Association for the Advancement of Science.

  Category: Faith & Spirituality, Life & Society, Middle East  Values: Education
Views: 6278

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Older Comments:
3 thoughts:
- We've been here before. 1000 years ago, Muslim/Arabic scholarship was world class
- MIT would probably help Saudi Arabia create another MIT, they're not afraid of competition from anyone
- The Muslims would have to become comfortable with the unrestrained discussion of conflicting ideas to be successful


I hope Saudi Arabia stop bombardment Northern Yamen immedietly for fear of escalation to bigger war. It seems that American Army presence at Saudi Arabia were successful in inciting the Saudis to go into war. Remember, 3 millions people are performing Haj at Mecca soon and the war will create further tension and disturbance. And this is what the US army want.
When Saudi start to bombard Northern Yamens, US immedietly organise peace talk between Isreal and Palestinians without conditions. This is purely strategy that the Jews are planning. Isreal long-term mission is to TAKE MECCA from Saudi Arabia by creating tension in Saudi Arabia with a hope that Iranian military will attack Saudi Arabia.

Well they are taking cream of the crop they better do something for their own careers with all found fellowships...The timing for this grad school is just excellent while our state university's budgets being cut and jobs are few and far between...It will also a test for American grads if their A grades are really what they are supposed to be!

This is what I have been praying for Saudi Arabia for years and years since I graduated from Japan in the early 80's. IF Japan without any natural resource is so advanced why not those countries that has at least the means to build strong schools. I was praying that those undeveloped countries that Allah has granted at least natural resources, come up with the best schools and Universities by attracting the best schoolars in research and others around the world. They have the money to attract them.
And here when I come to read this new, I feel tears in my eyes. May Allah help Saudi Arabia to become one of the leading countries in RESEARCH AND INVENTION. and that Allah set them apart from the evil behind every single invention. I am so happy I feel like it's my own coutry Senegal who comes up with this University.
My thanks go to King Abdallah, may Allah guides him to the right path in this mission, that he remembers that a strong school system start at the Elementary School. We would like to see Saudis Schoolars in the KAUST in the furtur instead of foreign scholars and scientists.
Allahou Akbaru

Once again the Islamophobes are showing their irrationality. FYI some Muslim nations are progressing beyond a Hindu rate of growth e.g. Indonesia & Turkey. Their blind enmity is amusing like a monkey in a zoo.

Masha'Allah, the rise of the Ummah..
May Allah wa ta'ala continue to guide us all..

MIT is what it is because of Freedom of Thought in USA and little or no censure of that Freedom Of Thought. Will Saudi Arabia gurantee any thing like that? I must be deluding myself. Mullahs will interfere at every stage and that is given.

Any rich perwon can spend money in building buildings ( designed and built by foreigners) and buying high tech equipment (bought from foreigners). But to create an intellectual institution requires an atmosphere which cannot exist in Saudi Arabia or any other muslim country.

So, it expect it to be waste of money (hey, why should I complain; it is not my money).

The establishment of KAUST should herald a new era for the Muslims around the world. This is a very a bold and positive step that KSA has taken and should be encouraged and promoted to reach its full potentials as one of the finest facilities in the world for research oriented educational institute.

Muslims must strive to rekindle their glorious past and utilize their resources to discover, develop and utilize the brightest minds around the world that will not only flourish the Muslim world but the rest of the world as well.


Muslim countries(Oil rich) need to open /start there own Universities /Colleges in all fields(Med,Science,Engineer,Law,) so that they produce muslim scholars without getting affected by western culture when they they go abroad.

Our Islam (Qura,Sunnah & Hadiths give so much importance to READING that we forgot these.
Iqra(Quran Chapter)
Battle of BAdar at Badr Prophet said...
Allah -Pen

The Saudi Ata-Turkeys (Chief Turkeys)
Do not confuse SCIENCE & TECHNOLOGY with SOCIAL Re-education a la Kemal Ataturk e.g. how does wearing a bowler hat instead of a Fez really make one progress scientifically & is it a necessity?
The Quislings are ONLY obeying their Masters
Saudi Arabia is ruled by quislings & is not accountable to the culture & traditions of the people. These stooges can only remain in power by the assent of their masters, & now they are showing who is boss. It may surprise many ignorant foreigners, that in many Muslim nations, especially the wealthier ones, the relative proportion of females exceeds males in higher education institutes! The free mixing of unrelated males & females is nothing do to with improving education, but more to do with imposing an alien culture top down. The Saudis are just being pressurized by their CFR masters to usher in the much touted ISLAMIC REFORMATION. Remember the Shah of Iran & Afghan's Commie WESTOXIFICATION?


It's hard pressed to create such a new school and boast. Even if its technologically advanced and up-to-date, it takes years (as they have indicated in the article) to show statistical success, and even, it may not be enough.

Also, this school as far as "academic elitism" is concerned is going up against schools that have been elite for hundreds of years. In addition, the cost of going there may be an issue especially for international students so there are other issues besides KAUST being successful.

Insha'Allah best of luck to them. The Muslim world needs world-class institutions of higher-learning.

This will not bear fruit now - but insha'Allah 30-50 years down the road. Remember when Nehru started IIT after independence - the fruits are being shown now. IIT graduates are highly prized in tech companies