Sunday June 3, 2007
Study in Saudi Arabia
FANCY studying in Saudi Arabia? Well, you may get the chance sooner than you think.
For decades, Malaysians have gone over to study religion and Islamic sciences at schools and universities in Saudi Arabia. Lately, however, new opportunities have emerged due to the country’s impressive technological and economic growth, as well as expansion in higher education.
A few students will definitely get the opportunity soon to pursue postgraduate studies at Saudi’s oldest and biggest university, King Saud University (KSU), in an area of their choice.
This golden chance is the result of an offer of 22 postgraduate scholarships for masters, PhD and post-doctoral research made to Malaysian Higher Education Minister Datuk Mustapa Mohamed during his visit to KSU last month.
“The university made the offer on the spot. It was a pleasant surprise. The offer demonstrates their confidence in our higher education system, and reflects the commitment of both countries to fostering educational partnerships,” says Mustapa.
It started with the setting up of the College of Arts, followed by the College of Science the following year. Other colleges followed soon after – from the College of Engineering and Business to Medicine and Information Technology.
Currently, there are more than 25 colleges covering diverse disciplines including community service, nutrition science, archaeology and tourism.
In the early 1980s, a new campus was built, and KSU opened its doors to female students as the original university buildings in central Riyadh were converted into a campus for the women's branch of the university.
Today, women are only barred from KSU’s engineering programme, on the premise that a profession in engineering would be impossible to pursue in the context of sex-segregation practices.
Since the early 1990s, KSU has started offering postgraduate studies in 61 areas of specialisation, and doctorates in Arabic, geography, and history.
The scholarships offered to Malaysians, covering tuition fees and living expenses, comprise six each for masters and PhD, and 10 for post-doctoral research.
Mustapa says his ministry has been asked to nominate candidates by early this month, and selection has been in process.
The KSU scholarship scheme is expected to see greater exchange of students and academics, as well as research collaboration, between Saudi and Malaysian institutions.
There are currently 19 universities in Saudi, with four new ones set up in 2005 to meet the growing demand for higher education in the country.
The realisation of the need to develop its human resource has also led to the development of more colleges for girls in the country.
On his trip, Mustapa also visited the King Abdul Aziz University in Jeddah and University Um Al Qura in Mekah, where he met with Malaysian students.
In terms of research collaboration, the minister feels that Malaysians need to open their minds to tap into emerging areas in Saudi Arabia such as technology and engineering.
There are opportunities aplenty, he stresses, particularly with the research centres set up by the Saudi Government at public universities, in areas like water studies, Islamic economics, technologies related to the discovery and economic utilisation of natural resources, Hajj and Umra studies (pilgrimage studies) as well as nanotechnology and biotechnology.
Another area is the exchange of expertise such as the one-year exchange stint awarded to International Islamic University Malaysia ICT Faculty dean Assoc Prof Dr Mohd Adam Suhami to teach and undergo practical work at Taibah University in Madinah.
In addition, the Saudi Government has agreed to send its science and mathematics teachers to Malaysia for training in the teaching of the two subjects in English. – By HARIATI AZIZAN