Saudi royals set up long-distance deal

July 25, 2003

George Washington University is in negotiations with the Saudi royal family to provide a customised long-distance education programme to several of its members.

The family is reportedly concerned about travel to the US in the security environment post-September 11.

William Frawley, dean of the School of Arts and Sciences, said the key questions were whether the concept meshed with the university's general mission, whether it was possible to deliver a normal curriculum while maintaining academic standards, and whether it was logistically feasible.

The details are still being worked out, but Professor Frawley expects classes to begin in the autumn for five to seven students, all members of the royal family.

Courses will be delivered via satellite, internet and other systems.

Professor Frawley said that the programme could lay the groundwork for future collaborations. The programme could serve as a model, he said, "for other kinds of experiences, not only in the Middle East".

To Robert Pastor, vice-president of international affairs, at nearby American University, the real issue is that such a programme might be necessary.

"The tragedy is that new visa policies are discouraging good students from the Middle East from attending US universities," he said.

But he also cited the Saudi royal family's unique ability to cope with the situation. "What permits the royal family to do that is that money is no object," he said.

Professor Frawley refused to discuss the financial arrangements of the programme. But according to an unidentified source cited by the Washington Post newspaper, the royal family will pay normal tuition costs, and the additional fee of running a long-distance programme.

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