Jul. 17, 2018


Prof. Abdullah M. Althiabi

Saudi Arabia

Prof. Abdullah M. Althiabi

Rector, University of Tabuk

“We are heavily investing in e-learning and distance learning facilities.”

BIO

Rector of University of Tabuk (UT), prof. Abdullah M. Althiabi is a noteworthy figure in the education sector in Saudi Arabia. He had his BA in Mathematics in 1998 and he pursued his master degree in 2002 from University of Missouri- Kansas City. Then, he gained his PHD from University of Birmingham in 2005. Prof. Abdullah was the vice-rector at University of Tabuk in 2010. He also was the vice-rector for educational affairs at King Abdul-Aziz University from 2016 till him being appointed the rector of (UT). He used to be a member of a high-level committee for evaluating female colleges across the kingdom at the Ministry of Higher Education as well as a member of a committee decreed by the minister of higher education to check on community colleges in the kingdom. As you are aware, prof. Abdullah belongs to (UT) since its early stages and he was among the pioneers to put the foundation for the university since its establishment in 2006.

What are some of the university's main strengths, and how have they evolved over the years?

One of our major strengths is our location. Tabuk is in the northwest of Saudi Arabia and it is so close to the new tourism and business hub NEOM. It has a population of 910,000 people. We offer students a chance to get a first-class university education locally. The university currently has 29,000 students and 3,000 staff. We have students from Europe, Asia, America, and Africa, and expanding our international student exchange programs is part of our strategy. We have grown and have been able to build up our structures and programs in various disciplines, including economics. From the outset, we insisted on applying certain local and international benchmarks when building our programs. We have international cooperation contracts with several universities such as University of Louisiana and New York State University. From our inception in 2006, the university's vision has been to develop our own resources and then increase them. The university has 12 million sqm of land at its disposal. We have investment plans and a special unit run by experienced financial experts dedicated to build up our resources. We also have an Institute of Research and Consultation, which is the connection between our colleges and staff on one hand, and the private sector on the other. Any company looking for consultation services or research regarding specific issues can use our services. The University comprises 11 colleges, 12 deanships, 6 units, and two centers as well as five university colleges across five satellite campuses. This is in addition to newly establishing yet another college, two centers, and a unit in order to be in accord with the kingdom's 2030 vision. It is worth mentioning here that 850 scholars have been sent to study abroad covering many fields of sciences as well as gaining five patents in scientific research.

How do you assess which skills are in demand in the private sector?

From the outset, we have worked to establish strong connections with local authorities and companies over time. We also have a good relationship with the local Trade Chamber and the Ministry of Labor, which help us to understand the labor needs in this rapidly changing economy. Each college within the university has its own council with representatives from businesses and local government. We have prepared our latest strategic plan based on Saudi's economic needs and the new projects that are currently on-going in Tabuk; for example, NEOM and other Red Sea projects. Hence, we have established two new centers and a unit: Center for Research in Renewable Energy, Center for Industrial Innovations and Robotics, and the Entrepreneurship Unit. They will all help the university be part of what is going on in terms of new projects. We have also established a College of Tourism, since the university is right in the middle between the ancient city of Mada'in Saleh and the new tourism and business hub NEOM.

What other aspects of Vision 2030 are impacting your operations?

IT integration is a vital component of the Vision. We are heavily investing in e-learning and distance learning facilities. Most of our resources are available online and most functions are automated now. All of our academic registration procedures are online. We have started to run distance-learning courses where the students do not have to come to the campus at all. Another element is female participation in the labor force. At the University of Tabuk, we are among the first local universities to assign a female vice-rector for our female students and try to encourage the colleges to increase female participation. We have females on the University and College Councils as well as committees. These are forums whereby women can deliver their ideas and concerns about education. Another important element is accreditation, the university encourages its colleges to gain accreditation for their programs. Thus, the Mathematics Department gained accreditation from ASIIN, the CEA accredited the English Department, and the ABET gave its accreditation for both the Mechanical Engineering and Computing Departments.

What are some of your goals and ambitions for 2018?

One of our main goals is to help our students find jobs within six months of graduating. We conduct training courses within our curriculum because students need more training and practice. We offer specialized training courses to help our students find jobs in the private sector and we try to provide them with the tools they need for the workplace. We are working to ensure that all our students can pass their relevant international professional standards tests. We want our graduates to gain both academic and professional certification.

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