Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Controlled experiment: King Abdullah University of Science and Technology

John Gravois of the UAE state-sponsored The National, writing on the birth of KAUST. Long article. Here's a snippet:
Built in just 1,000 days from a seaside stretch of desert, the new university has already staked out one of the most ambitious research agendas in academia, and it has drawn its inaugural cohort of 71 professors from some of the world’s great universities. At a time when other research institutions are watching their finances dwindle, Kaust’s founding endowment of at least $10 billion – supplied by King Abdullah Bin Abdul Aziz Al Saud himself – immediately places it among the wealthiest handful of universities on the globe, in the rarefied company of Harvard, Yale, Stanford and Princeton.
...
But the successful construction of an ivory tower – or, as the case may be, an ivory gated compound – is only a first step. “The question is whether it will actually translate into something more permanent and durable in Saudi Arabia itself,” says Bernard Haykel, a Princeton historian who has studied the Kingdom extensively. The rest of Saudi Arabia’s education sector remains under the purview of the religious establishment, an influential bloc that is sceptical of the new university – if not overtly hostile to its approach. How much can Kaust push the limits of Saudi society from behind a security perimeter?

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