Where would you position the university within the education landscape, and what are your distinctive strengths?
Al-Baha University is a relatively new university, and its initial positioning was to provide a broad range of disciplines to both male and female students. Currently, 14 of our 15 colleges have male and female branches. Al-Baha is a mountainous area, so aside from our main campus, we have four small branches in and around the city where we provide around 60% of our programs to make them more accessible. Furthermore, we have a research, a business, and a medical center. Currently, we serve 26,000 students, mostly from Al-Baha region, but also a batch of international students who come for Arabic language and Islamic studies. All together, we host around 166 international students from 20 different countries.
How do you envision better aligning graduation programs with industry requirements?
Vision 2030 has given us a wide range of thinking, and the focus on the young generation is the key here. At Al-Baha University, we guide students to build up relevant skills for jobs of the future, specifically in engineering and computer science. The business center plays an important role here as well, where we aim to develop the entrepreneurial skills of our students and teach them how to set up companies. Already, 60 students, male and female, have worked on comprehensive business plans that they pitched in a competition. The top three receive full support to develop their plans as real companies. Apart from this competition, we continue to provide inclusive programs to encourage our students.
How do you strive to bring more technology into classrooms?
Our computer science college and engineering colleges offer various programs in the field of technology, including ICT and mechanical engineering. The internal IT infrastructure is extremely technologically advanced to stay on par with international practices. The university network allows students to do all their interactions online. To encourage our students, we have a computer science club for both males and females with additional workshops and training programs. On top of this, our staff can follow programs to improve their own skills.
What are the main fields of research at the university?
Research is an essential part of the university. We have a deanship and a vice president for research, and we encourage our staff to conduct research and apply for funding. In 2018 so far, we have approved funded research for about 90 staff members in different areas. Staff typically apply to that fund, and there is a committee that reviews the ideas and selects the best ideas to support. Also, we work with King Abdulaziz City for Science and Technology (KACST) to support research projects. We hope to have this funding in the near future to fund specific research for staff members of Al-Baha University.
What is the typical mentality of an Al-Baha graduate?
A mountainous environment like Al-Baha inspires to think more about nature, ecology, and agriculture. At Al-Baha University, we think about bringing the university and people closer together to think about the natural aspects. Also, we can develop our tourism, as Saudis like to come here during the hot summer months. That includes thinking about a summer program at the university, for example for the youth traveling with their families. There could be training workshops or programs in our business center. We need to think about programs that we need in the future. We need to be able to change our programs going forward to meet the needs of Vision 2030; programs need to be changed to be ready for the new generation of jobs. The majority of the Saudi population is below 30 years old, and this is our advantage.