King Abdullah University of Science and Technology (KAUST), is due to open its doors to the first batch of students from September 2009. It’s located in a small town (that is now big after the campus construction), Thuwwal, around 80kms north of Jeddah and 100kms from Makkah. It is being built as an “international graduate-level research university dedicated to inspiring a new age of scientific achievement in the Kingdom that will also benefit the region and the world.”
It was announced by King Abdullah in 2006, after a decade-long wish of starting a university at this level to lead the Muslim world. It sure wants to compete with the top-notch universities in the UK and US with ground-breaking facilities to attract the top of the top faculties and students. Starting such a university from scratch is bound to take some time, but with the way it is growing, it is aiming for the top within 5 years of its opening.
It has successfully grabbed a lot of well-known professors and leaders from various universities across the world, including UK, US and India. It is doing all it can (money being the first thing), to provide an international community to the faculties which is very different from the rest of the country, a fully co-educational university, a city where women will be able to drive and movie theatres. “A place that looks like a city in Star wars” is exactly the same thing that came in my mind when I first saw its video on their website. Whether you are interested in working there or not, I suggest you look at the recruitment video here.
Since it accepts students only at the graduate and research level, it’s easier for them to select the future graduating class of the university from around the world (with money being the primary thing). They are giving “Discovery Scholarships” to students who are enrolled in an undergraduate degree who will then be able to complete their graduate degree at KAUST. The scholarship includes full tuition fees (for both undergraduate and graduate degrees), fully-expensed accommodation and monthly living stipend. So now you might know how money plays a very important role in this.
I know a few students who are in the final year of my course in my university who will be joining KAUST later this year. They had been to a global conference in Jeddah in January where similar students from all around the world had gathered to visit the under-construction campus and the city.
There is a serious shortage of universities in the Muslim world that have achieved the Top 500 in the world. But I am pretty confident with initiatives like KAUST.