Public universities in Saudi Arabia have been told to hire foreign researchers as a last resort only, according to reports.
Institutions have been directed to focus on recruiting Saudis for their academic vacancies, a Saudi Press Agency account of a Ministry of Education statement said.
The "Saudisation" drive represents an attempt to wean the country’s universities off their reliance on foreign academics who make up 42 per cent of the total workforce in public higher education institutions, based on 2014 data.
Gulf Business, citing the press agency report, said that universities would be encouraged to advertise their vacancies in local newspapers and websites, and to contact the Ministry of Civil Service to see if there are qualified Saudis on its “waiting list” of jobseekers.
Saudi Arabia’s unemployment rate currently stands at 12.7 per cent, and has been rising because of low oil prices.
Education ministry spokesman Mubarak Al-Osaimi said that public universities’ use of foreigners was regarded as being temporary, until Saudi university graduates are able to take up the roles.
He said that foreign staff would be offered one-year renewable contracts.
However, Gulf Business said that Mr Al-Osaimi acknowledged the value of international academics in Saudi universities.