MODEL OF EXCELLENCE

Saudi Arabia 2020 | EDUCATION | INTERVIEW

PSU is a higher education institution at the forefront of the Kingdom's Vision 2030 project, training young minds to adapt to new challenges and seize opportunities for themselves and their country.

Ahmed S. Yamani
BIOGRAPHY

Ahmed S. Yamani is Rector of PSU. He holds a PhD in structural engineering from the University of Michigan. He started his academic career in the Department of Architecture and Building Sciences, College of Architecture and Planning at King Saud University.

How would you position your university in the academic landscape of the Kingdom in terms of faculty?
PSU will emphasize its strengths and focus on graduate employability, the quality of its faculty, the degree programs we offer, recruitment of talented and diverse students, and focus on graduating young men and women who land good jobs. In brief, PSU is focused on graduating employable young professional for rewarding careers in their fields. They will also be informed citizens. These graduates and our programs play a vital role in the ongoing implementation of Vision 2030. As for the PSU faculty, the university is proud of the diversity and strengths of its national and international faculty. In the run up to laying down the themes and goals in 2016 for PSU's 2018-2023 strategic plan, faculty members knew they had to increase the quality and frequency of scholarly publications, as well as participate in more conferences.

What is your vision for preparing students for the jobs of the future in the digital economy?
The final course bachelor's students take is the cooperative program. It is a rigorous, seven-month-long, hands-on training program held at leading firms, local and international, in the Kingdom. It is meant to narrow the gap between what students learn in the classroom on their path to the workplace. It is difficult to see how things will play out because of digital technology. As for the digital economy, that will reduce or eliminate jobs in many traditional places of work, including shopping malls, banks, offices, and increase inequality. So what are the jobs of the future? Will those jobs pay living wages to cover the costs of owning a home and having a family in a future where healthcare, social security, and education are privatized? These are questions that going digital, on its own, does not address.

What is your vision for the use of technology in academia?
Big consulting firms say that remote learning will become a bigger trend, but we do not see it, and there are plenty of examples of failure. Student and faculty engagement, along with in-person conversations and projects, are what make a successful education. Huddling in a dark room with a headset on is not the way to go. The human touch and human interactions are the quintessential ingredients to a quality education. That being said, PSU has and will continue to explore, critique, and make decisions on how to best utilize blended learning or pass on certain types of tech.

What is your agenda in terms of the internationalization of staff, students, and programs?
PSU has a number of formal and informal agreements with distinguished schools. The university offers a range of study abroad opportunities for a year, a term, or as an intensive summer school course. On another front, each year there are two-week cultural-immersion summer programs, each in a different country. A week or longer is spent with one or more hosting universities with the balance spent exploring the countryside and metro areas, interacting and learning the culture from locals. PSU Model United Nations and Moot Court teams on both campuses go abroad to compete. PSU also runs a number of imported skills building programs such as the intensive soft skills Fullbridge boot camp program for graduating students, ABA ROLI legal training programs for students and the Law College faculty, and British Higher Education Academy training for PSU faculty.

What are your strategic priorities and primary ambitions for the years ahead?
As the first private university in the country, the university rose to the challenge in 1999 and will continue to pioneer and champion private higher education. PSU has headed into its third decade in higher education with confidence. In April 2018, the university was awarded a seven-year NCAAA Institutional academic accreditation. This is the third time we have won this accreditation. Our strategic priorities and primary ambitions for the years ahead are to stand out as a model of excellence in private higher education.