Saudi Arabia 2017 | EDUCATION | INTERVIEW

TBY talks to Issa Al-Ansari, Rector of Prince Mohammad Bin Fahd University (PMU), on the institution's strengths, attracting students from overseas, and expectations for 2018.

Issa Al-Ansari
Rector of Prince Mohammad Bin Fahd University (PMU), Issa Al-Ansari is an eminent figure in the education sector in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia at a time of colossal educational reforms in the Kingdom. He pioneered the startup of this remarkable North American model university in the Eastern Province of Saudi Arabia, the Prince Mohammad Bin Fahd University, PMU, established in 2006. During that same period and until 2013, he also became the special advisor to the Governor of the Eastern Province HRH Prince Mohammad Bin Fahd, also Chair of the Board of Trustees. He is also Secretary General of Prince Mohammad Bin Fahd Foundation for Humanitarian Development with its local and international branches, and has worked restlessly to engage in humanitarian projects locally and internationally to serve humanitarian causes in the areas related to rights to education, poverty eradication, integration of individuals with special needs, youth, and female empowerment.

What are the PMU's main academic strengths?

At the very start, the founder of PMU, HRH Prince Mohammad Bin Fahd Bin Abdulaziz, decided that the new institution should represent a remarkable addition to existing higher education institutions in the Kingdom. Therefore, the design of the PMU system and academic programs followed the most developed and effective methodologies, which resulted in a university encompassing the most effective learning environment. An outstanding academic strength of PMU is the adoption of the Core Curriculum, which is designed and included in the curricula of all colleges. The Core Curriculum is designed to enable the students to acquire the competencies they need to be successful in their chosen fields and to contribute to the development of their community and the Kingdom. These competencies are: communication, technological competence, critical thinking and problem solving, professional competence, teamwork, and leadership. PMU provides a learning—not teaching—environment that is student centered and aims to develop the student as a whole person. A learning outcomes assessment process is continually applied so as to ensure that all objectives are successfully accomplished and required improvements are constantly introduced. By adopting a student-centered approach, we aim at enhancing students' abilities to develop as life long-learners and pursue improvement during their studies and long after they have graduated.

What do you think about some of the changes that will arise for the Eastern Province?

The Eastern Province is the most important industrial and business region in the Kingdom. It embraces the Oil industry and the main and longest oil reserves in the world. There are also the basic industries of the Kingdom represented by the Saudi Basic Industries Corporation (SABIC) and a lot of other industries such as food industries and manufacturing industries. As such, the Eastern Province is poised to develop more and more and will continue attracting more and more people to work and live in it. Therefore, there will definitely be constant progress and development in main and support sectors. This will be reflected in increased business, urbanization and a proliferation of recreational and service institutions. In addition, there will be an increase in educational institutions including colleges and universities.

What do you gain from your international partnerships and will you be looking more toward increasing the number of foreign students?

We have international partnerships in many parts of the world. We gain an international outlook to diversity and successful practices witnessed in different higher education institutions around the world. Currently, we are establishing three Arabic language programs, namely in Turkey, Kazakhstan, and China. We have developed international collaboration programs with a number of renowned universities, such as the University Of Central Florida (UCF), which houses the Prince Mohammad Bin Fahd Program for Strategic Research and Studies. We have also developed collaboration with the University of California Santa Barbara (UCSB), which houses the King Abdulaziz Endowed Chair for Islamic Studies, and we have established the King Fahd program for Dispute Resolution at Pepperdine. Regarding student diversity, the Prince Mohammad Bin Fahd Scholarship Program, which is implemented it in collaboration with the Arab League, has hosted more than 40 students from the Arab world on full scholarships and the same program is now being established with Turkey and Kazakhstan.

What are your expectations and key strategic objectives for 2018?

In 2018 we will continue pursuing our roadmap and that includes the establishment of a School of Architecture, the Prince Sultan Bin Abdul Aziz College for the Visually Impaired, the Medical School, and the Teaching Hospital. By this we hope to continue serving education in the Eastern Province of Saudi Arabia and preparing global graduates that will assume leading roles locally and internationally.