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    » 09/25/2009, 00.00

    SAUDI ARABIA

    First Saudi university to allow men and women together



    The new King Abdullah University of Science and Technology opens in a town not far from Jeddah. According to the university’s charter, Saudi Arabia’s religious police will not be allowed to operate on its premises but women will be allowed to drive. By next year, 817 students from 61 countries should be enrolled.
    Riyadh (AsiaNews/Agencies) – For the first time in the history of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia (KSA), men will be in the same classrooms with women in at least one university. The new institution is the King Abdullah University of Science and Technology (KAUST), located in Thuwal, some 80 kilometres north of Jeddah.

    Inaugurated on Wednesday, the co-ed campus is the brainchild of Saudi King Abdullah Bin Abdulaziz Al Saud and will be a unique location for the women who pass entry exams.

    Saudi Arabia’s religious police will not be allowed on the premises, but women, both students and teaching staff, will be able to drive cars without being charged like in the rest of the kingdom.

    “Humanity has been the target of vicious attacks from extremists, who speak the language of hatred,” King Abdullah said at the inauguration ceremony on Wednesday.

    “Undoubtedly,” he added, “scientific centres that embrace all peoples are the first line of defence against extremists. And today this university will become a house of wisdom . . . a beacon of tolerance.”

    At least 817 students representing 61 different countries have already enrolled in the research university on the Red Sea coast. Of these, 314 of the students are ready to begin their classes; the rest are set to start classes at the onset of 2010.

    The university’s goal is to reach 2,000 students, 15 per cent from the KSA.

    KAUST’s international nature is another important factor in King Abdullah’s effort to brush up the kingdom’s image.

    The university will be equipped with some of the latest systems in technological research.

    Its faculty will be drawn from a number of countries, and students will be able to graduate for example in earth science and engineering, chemical and biological engineering, applied mathematics and computational Science, and electrical engineering.

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    See also

    24/05/2008 SAUDI ARABIA
    A film festival in a land without movie theatres
    The event marks a significant step in Saudi Arabia where movie theatres are banned and DVDs are censored. Unusually for a place like Saudi Arabia, men and women were in the same hall, albeit separated by a glass partition.

    27/04/2010 SAUDI ARABIA
    Head of the religious police in Mecca, men and women can pray together
    Ahmed al-Ghamdi says that the strict separation between the sexes that exists today did not exist at the time of Muhammad. Conservatives respond harshly: a fatwa says that he "must be killed." The official Saudi news agency reports his removal and a few hours later deletes the story. The issue also has economic implications.

    20/10/2009 SAUDI ARABIA
    Boys and girls together in Saudi primary schools
    This is an experiment limited to 15 private schools and only the first three primary grades. But the initiative, which follows that of the “mixed" university built by King Abdullah confirms the will for a cautious modernization.

    26/09/2011 SAUDI ARABIA
    Riyadh: even women can vote. But only in four years
    King Abdullah announces on television that women have the right to vote and be elected to municipal councils. He added that some may be called to the Shura Council, an advisory body of the sovereign.

    02/08/2005 SAUDI ARABIA
    King Fahd laid to rest amidst tight security and public indifference
    Dignitaries from 36 countries attend the funeral, but locals shrug off the event: "He didn't do anything for us".



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