Source: King Abdullah University of Science and Technology (KAUST)
Link here to examine a 7m19s long recruitment video titled ‘About KAUST‘. The publicity and recruitment function (one of many) of the International Advisory Council, which includes senior officials from European and US universities, becomes clear in this video.
A unique semi-territorialized live-work-play message is also developed in the video that encourages some grounding (live-work) in the new state-of-the-art campus, while simultaneously ensuring that regional and global mobility (work-play) will be a likely condition of life for KAUST faculty members. It will be interesting to see how the university’s leaders deal with the deterritorializing impulse that will inevitably emerge, and ensure that KAUST speaks to and serves people living in this region of Saudi Arabia, the entire country, and the Middle East. This is a clear and worthwhile objective; one underlying the creation of KAUST. Yet, as the recruitment video conveys, the target audience is a mobile “world class” faculty base, people primarily holding US and European PhDs, and engaged in elite scholarly knowledge networks that have highly variable geographies associated with them.
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I have had very well intentioned and involved interactions with KAUST, including their Global Research Partnerships and the fellowships. I now have no doubt that this is yet another waste of huge financial resources that the population of this developing country badly needs. Saudi Arabia’s GDP is $20,000. This is not a rich country, they have an illiteracy problem, human rights problems, no freedom of religion, no freedom of speech, a huge economical chasim between the rich and the severely poor. They are better off building their economy from the bottom up, i.e. better educating their population at the elementary, secondary, and college level. Such developments will naturally lead to well earned freedoms that will enable world class Graduate research institutions. This is a mislead and out of touch effort by elite ARAMCO officials and intellectuals. This maybe salvaged by adding a few Economists to their team, preferrably economists from developing countries such as India, Turkey, Malaysia and Singapore.
Realizing the fact that this will be only and very first research University in the whole kingdom, clearly indicates the education system present. If recruiting students from US, there is no reason to leave an admission of Yale, Stanford, Cambridge, Stanford or Rice like Universities and relocate in the deserts of Kingdom. The university is spending so much money on the level of students who are lacking elementary education. Money should be spent more at that level instead of spending $10 billion on a University in which majority of the students will be international. So this makes no sense and does not adds any benefits to the Kingdom, a big mistake and end looming the same with KFUPM where admissions are completely based on source.
I believe this is not a waste of money. Actually, it is the safest way for Saudi government to invest US dollars in a downturn world economy. US dollar is quickly losing its value.