For a developing country such as Saudi Arabia, professional education is particularly important. Graduate engineers build infrastructure and staff the growing industries. Business graduates enable enterprises through marketing and finance and accountants assure the markets of transparency and objectivities. Architects, doctors, dentists and numerous other professions can be added to the list. KAU has taken the wise decision of seeking accreditation as far as possible, for such international standards help KAU graduates stand out among the crowd. KAU will, I am sure, continue to enhance the professional education based on international quality standards and assurance. Providing a common Arts-Science foundation to all may however pose a challenge due to curriculum overcrowding. I am sure KAU will find its own solution. In the case of NTU, many specialized courses that overloaded students were eliminated from the curriculum. Instead, the emphasis was redirected and is now on practical work place experience through internships, which often lead directly to employment.
Undergraduate Research and Elite Science and Technology Programmes
A common problem faced by mega-universities such as KAU is the wide spectrum of academic abilities among the large student population. It is clearly necessary to tailor courses and programmes for the majority of students. This however leaves exceptionally capable students in the lurch. They may get bored and distracted by the normal curriculum. Some of these able students may have the potential, with the right preparation, to become the new generation of Saudi academic leaders.
A strong undergraduate research programme is an important component of elite science and technology programmes. It can also serve to kindle interest in research among undergraduates. A good undergraduate research record with publications gives students a distinct advantage when applying to the best graduate schools. To be effective, such a programme should be well funded, open to as many applicants as possible and engage the best research-intensive faculty members as supervisors. This is already possible given the rapid increase of research at KAU.
In addition, intensifying and extending the scope of programmes for the very best of KAU science and engineering students would complement the undergraduate research scheme in the interests of producing the next generation of Saudi academics.