President, Taif University
In TU, we used to have different colleges and four polytechnic colleges around Taif. People wanted only to go to the university but not the polytechnics. Only the people who could not get into the university went to the polytechnics. We now have formed a joint strategy and program to make sure that the 20,000 or so graduates all have the best option to pursue an education, because not all of those students need to go to university, many could go to the polytechnic for their interests and needs. Hence, we filter students according to their capabilities and the needs of the region and the country in accordance with Vision 2030 and the National Plan. For example, there is no doubt that the tourism market in Taif is blooming, and it requires hospitality graduates who do not need a bachelor’s degree. In 2017, we have a program transformation plan in motion for our 44 programs at our university. We have funded this ourselves and are reviewing all our programs in terms of quality standards and market needs. We are also shifting toward more online programs and also aim to increase the percentage of international students on our campus. Our aim here is to have 10% of the full-time student population be international by 2020, not to mention attract people from all over the world.
President, Bisha University
In 2017, we received approval for the restructuring of the university’s colleges. Today, we have 15 colleges, including applied medicine, science, business, humanities, and more. Currently, we have 17,000 students at Bisha University, 80% of whom are female. Our headquarters are in Bisha, but we have three branches in smaller towns in the provinces of Tathleeth, Balgarn, and Al-Namas. In the future, these branches could be new universities in their own right. A university is important for local economic development. Having a local university is also particularly important for smaller towns to increase their opportunities to access higher education. Historically, students had to go to a larger city if they wanted to go further with their education. However, now this is not the case because they have a local university in their hometown. Now, parents are much more comfortable because their daughters can go to university nearby. We strongly believe that to succeed as a new university, we have to have cooperation and innovation with other countries, especially international universities. We have signed an agreement with the Malaysian Technology University’s Engineering College and will start with an exchange of students by sending 10-15 students there to do training.
President, Mohammed Alohali
Customizing curricula to meet the needs of the private sector is a huge challenge for universities because the world is changing rapidly. For instance, in computer engineering, tools and processes are changing every two or three years, it is difficult for universities to keep up at this rhythm. In any case, this happens in every sector such as health and the humanities. If we focused our education in just the latest trends in the industry, our students would be shallow and narrow-minded. Instead, we give them tools and means to become strong and broad in knowledge to learn and upgrade their skills and competences following graduation. Vision 2030 needs a workforce that higher education institutions, such King Faisal University, can provide in order to be able to implement its programs; the economy needs large numbers of skilled people in order to transform and grow. We are working to develop a professional certification instead of full curricula so students can have the knowledge and the vocational experience. This will be in connection with professional societies in finance, accounting, or project management for instance. There are certain sectors where our students get graduate degrees, based not just on the transcript but a certain set of skills they must demonstrate their knowledge of a certain set of skills.
Typically, universities establish programs to educate people and prepare them for their future lives, not for the labor market. We need 10 years to establish an academic program and get it running successfully, and trying to change this rapidly is thus difficult. Universities should prepare their students for the labor market, not only by changing the curriculum, but also by changing other programs that are presented to students outside of the curriculum in order to establish a labor culture and awareness among the students for the market and the soft skills required. The top priority for us is preparing the soft skills that are needed in the labor market rather than modifying the academic curriculum given that the market is not that static. We have to prepare our students to look at the opportunities in the private sector and enter the specialties that are most in need in the market. We initiated a program to help our graduates get jobs through training, both during their time in university and after graduation. We have programs for graduates and they can attend training courses free of charge. We have built an ecosystem for graduates and this year one of the programs the government granted us is a job accelerator that will help people get on track with jobs and prepare them.
SAUDI ARABIA - Tourism
Executive Board Member, Al Jazirah Vehicles Agencies
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