REGIONAL UNIVERSITIES

Saudi Arabia 2020 | EDUCATION | B2B

Al Baha University and Al Jouf University are at the forefront of higher education in Saudi Arabia, expanding their roles in research across technical fields and the humanities.

Ismail Al-Bishri
ISMAIL AL-BISHRI
Rector
Al Jouf University
Abdullah Al Hossain
ABDULLAH AL HOSSAIN
President
Al Baha University

What role does your school play in the Saudi education sector?
ISMAIL AL-BISHRI Starting with just a few colleges in 2005, the university now counts 18 different colleges across its three branches offering bachelor's and master's degrees, with more than 27,000 students and faculty members from all over the world. That being said, this institution maintains a strict connection to its territory, acting as a fundamental unit in the north of Saudi Arabia by providing a high level of teaching, research, and resources. We are developing research capacity related to olive harvesting, medical services, and renewable energy, for which we opened a new center to align ourselves with the government initiative to establish Al Jouf as a center for solar energy projects in Saudi Arabia.

ABDULLAH AL HOSSAIN We have just set out a new proposal for 200 male and 200 female students to start new projects, with the hope that in the end we will end up with 10 to 20 small companies established by these scholars. This will be in different disciplines such as engineering, nursing, sciences, arts, business, and marketing. This group will spend about four or five months to improve their skills in their particular discipline. This will start with lectures and then they will move on to thinking more deeply about potential projects they can do, either in small groups or as individuals. There will be experts mentoring and monitoring their efforts. The concepts that succeed will hopefully end up being small, private companies. This is a multi-disciplinary approach to entrepreneurship. We think that students in every field, including arts, have new ideas that they can use to start building something. They can all use technology to help them do this, even science students. With a small start-up fund, Al Baha University hopes to be able to support these small companies in commercializing their ideas.

What is necessary to achieve a balance between applied research and pure research at newer universities?
IAB On the one hand, we base our grants on our strategic research plans, which guides us on where to focus. On the other hand, we encourage every college to engage in all types of research to win prizes and additional grants. This approach enhances student-teacher engagement, creating connections that lead to concrete results. The results are appreciated worldwide when our students continue their education abroad. Skills such as problem solving, critical thinking, and creative thinking help students explore themselves and develop plans for their future. One of the core advantages of a young institution like Al Jouf University is undoubtedly the flexibility within the university council. This allows us to change and develop strategic plans to align them with Vision 2030, global trends, or evolving needs of the country.

AAH We have started thinking about how to develop our academic programs in the future. The university has been around for about 10 years now. We have about 60 programs and are thinking about redeveloping and rearranging some of them. Some programs might be discontinued, others extended, and some new ones may be added, particularly in the computer science and IT fields. In chemistry, we are thinking about changing the program to go more into specific chemicals. We also want to offer more depth in biology. At the same time, we are looking at post-graduate studies. We have about 10 programs almost ready, and we are currently going through these to ensure they meet our standards. We have master's programs in fields such as business, accounting, and chemistry. We want to end up with good post-graduate programs. We are considering a partnership with King Abdulaziz City for Science and Technology (KACST). There are a lot of changes happening with the Saudi Vision 2030, and KACST has started to take up some new roles. For that project, KACST is actually providing money to fund research, but they may need to reconsider their agenda, as their plans may change.