KAUST head to underline role in job creation

The president of a flagship research university in Saudi Arabia will emphasise his institution's role in creating jobs for the country's burgeoning youth population in the Higher Education Policy Institute's annual lecture.

May 10, 2012

In the aftermath of the Arab Spring - in which jobless graduates were often first to take to the streets - Choon Fong Shih will stress that the kingdom's enormous oil revenues will not be enough to satisfy the demand for employment among young people.

The King Abdullah University of Science and Technology could fill an "urgent need to provide quality employment in a country with plenty of oil and plenty of youth, but not plenty of jobs", he was expected to say in the lecture at the Royal Geographical Society in London on 10 May.

When KAUST opened in 2009, it broke new ground by allowing mixed-sex classes. The institution has global ambitions: by 2020, it aims to have a citation and publication rate "comparable to that of the world's top 10 science and technology universities".

Professor Shih, former vice-chancellor of the National University of Singapore, was to argue: "Oil revenues can pay for food and water. Oil revenues can pay for access to internet games and social media.

"But oil revenues alone cannot create the kinds of jobs that match the rising expectations of the kingdom's...youths, in a country where overseas workers and talents fill many jobs, at both ends of the job market."

His comments appear to represent a slight change of emphasis. Before the revolutions that have shaken the Arab world, King Abdullah, the country's ruler, and Professor Shih had stressed KAUST's role in rekindling science in the Islamic world and had placed less emphasis on creating jobs and an innovation economy in the kingdom.

In his lecture, Professor Shih will also say that "there is more than a germ of truth" to the idea that KAUST continues to have a "blank cheque" from the Saudi government.

He will explain more about KAUST's mission and progress in a seminar sponsored by Times Higher Education to be held at the British Academy in London on 11 May.

david.matthews@tsleducation.com.

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