LIFELONG LEARNING

Saudi Arabia 2018-19 | EDUCATION | INTERVIEW

PSAU concentrates more on skills, such as communication, team collaboration, critical thinking, and lifelong learning rather than knowledge alone.

Prof. Abdulaziz Abdullah Alhamid
BIOGRAPHY
Prof. Abdulaziz Abdullah Alhamid was appointed Rector of PSAU in 2017. He graduated from the University of Birmingham in the UK with PhD in civil engineering. He joined the civil engineering department at King Saud University as an assistant professor and subsequently became a professor. He chaired the department of civil engineering for four years between 1999 and 2003 and was appointed dean of the college of engineering in 2005 for six years. In 2013, he was appointed as vice rector for graduate studies and scientific research in PSAU. Prof. Alhamid has published more than 55 papers in international and local journals and conferences.

Where would you position your university within the Saudi higher education landscape?

PSAU is one of the 28 governmental universities in the Kingdom, and it was established nine years ago. Currently, we have around 28,000 students and 2,100 faculty members from different nationalities at six campuses south of Riyadh. In less than a decade, we have grown to be one of the country's top-10 universities in terms of scientific publications—around 400 ISI-published, English-language articles per year. As a comprehensive university, we offer most of the disciplines, mainly sciences, engineering, education, medical studies, business, and humanities. We have five colleges of medical studies—medicine, dentistry, pharmacy, and two applied medical sciences—as well as two engineering colleges, three colleges of education, two business colleges, and five colleges of sciences and humanities in addition to preparatory year college and community college. Aside from our Saudi scholars, we have attracted high-caliber faculty members from all around the world, including Europe, Asia and Africa. We have a competitive selection process as well as an extensive development program for our staff, and we mandate them to pursue their studies abroad at top-ranked universities. In the last three years, we have had an average of 45 faculty members completing their PhDs studies and joining the university annually. We now have more than 550 faculty members studying abroad and all are studying in top-ranked universities.

How do you plan to match graduate employability with industry demands in line with Vision 2030?

We are keen to have strategic links with all parties, including both industry and the government sector. We have a strategic partnership with the Military Industrial Commission in Al Kharj, which is a great example of this. Furthermore, we have strong relationships with hospitals and other corporations where our students can receive training or follow their fellowship residencies. We have a solid relationship with the strongest universities around the world. We often send our final-year students abroad to spend their summer semesters for training, learning English, and gaining more experience. We strive to offer high-quality programs; in 2017, we received accreditation from Accreditation Board for Engineering and Technology (ABET) for the engineering school in three programs and ASIIN accreditation for mathematics and physics programs. This year, four other programs were visited by ABET team namely, computer engineering, computer science, information systems, and electrical engineering in Wadi Aldawaser. Other programs are scheduled to be visited by accreditation agencies in 2019. With such partnerships and programs that meet international standards, we are confident that we can convince industries that our graduates are knowledgeable, skillful, and competent. University education nowadays is fairly different from 20 years ago, when it was more spoon-fed knowledge transfer. Today, we concentrate more on skills, such as communication, team collaboration, critical thinking, and lifelong learning rather than knowledge only, as these help students meet employer demands.

What is your ambition for the coming years?

We have ambitious goals, and if we are able to realize them, we can assert PSAU's leading position. Our environment, facilities, and resources, both human and financial, give us a great opportunity for success. My main ambition is for PSAU to be among the top-five or six universities locally and among the top-50 regionally within a few years. Also, we strive to be recognized internationally and to enable our graduates to create jobs. If 5-10% of our graduates become job creators, that will be a great achievement for PSAU and the country. To promote this, we have established an entrepreneurship and innovation center in the university, which will motivate students and faculty toward creativity, confidence, self-dependence, and self-learning.