Internationalization of University Education and Its Application to Saudi Arabia

Each nation among the 193 members of the United Nations has its own particular characteristics resulting in continuous changes in international position and standing. Prominent among them, in contrasting ways, are the special cases of Singapore and Saudi Arabia.

Singapore Skyline at Marina Bay (photo by Guaning Su)

The Singapore story is a “poor boy made good” story of a small tropical island, devoid of natural resources other than its maritime location, striving against the odds to succeed and prosper. There is always a degree of angst in the Singaporean psyche, almost as if we cannot quite believe that we have come thus far. Singaporeans tend to have nagging doubts that it may be all be a mirage that can disappear like Cinderella's outfit, horses and coach on the stroke of midnight in the well-known fairy tale. As a result, we are obsessed with planning for the worst-case scenario and are overly cautious when considering possible courses of action that have not already been tried and tested by others. Engineering fundamental change with such a prevailing culture is always a challenge.

Saudi Arabia has gone through changes no less remarkable than Singapore. In a mere two generations the lives of most Saudi citizens have undergone complete transformation, from a predominantly nomadic way of life, struggling against the elements, to being citizens of one of the world's most prosperous countries [2]. Saudi Arabia today is a modern nation with every conceivable convenience and a high standard of living secured by an enviable position as the nation with some of the world's largest proven petroleum reserves [3]. Even so, the far-sighted Saudi leadership is already working on a post-petroleum future and embarking on the development of alternative industries. There is also concern among the leadership about the effect of petroleum wealth on the levels of motivation and energy among some Saudi youth. Reliance on foreign workers and its implications for national resilience is yet another concern. Universities such as KAU play leading roles in creating an increasingly diverse, robust, resilient and promising national future by educating its future leaders, professionals and citizens. Universities, as the main instrument in the process of the preparation of young people for high skilled jobs, must also help to overcome the inertia generated by a population accustomed to government largesse.

Alternative energy costs converging with oil and gas [4]

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