King Saud University President during a discussion with students’ parents in Riyadh Wednesday. — Okaz photo
RIYADH – Saudi Arabia needs at least 80 universities to become a first-world country, the head of a major university here has said.
During an open dialogue session, Dr. Abdullah Al-Othman, President of King Saud University, criticized writers and intellectuals who think 24 public universities is too many for the country.
“Twenty four public universities are not enough and cannot play a very effective and influential role in the society. We need at least 80 universities to transform from a third-world country to a first-world one,” he said.
It is very important that prestigious universities be provided with adequate budgets, so they can achieve the government’s ambitions, Dr. Al-Othman added. He valued the support provided by the government to King Saud University. He hoped the university to become self-sufficient by 2020.
Furthermore, all applicants to engineering, medical and science colleges are considered equally without bias and only those who have an accepted high school average will be admitted to the desired colleges, the president said.
“The process of acceptance at universities is based solely on competence,” he said.
The president also emphasized that low-performing professors must be held accountable.
“International universities can terminate a professor’s contract,” Dr. Al-Othman said while demanding that the relationship between a university and a professor be that of a contractual one that should be based on the production level assessed during a time period.
He criticized the fact that 70 percent of professors are still assistant professors.
“Only Saudi associate professors should be given contract on permanent basis. How can a university distinguish itself from another if it does not reward the distinct professors and hold accountable the low-performing professors?” the president said.
Al-Othman told parents of students who have been accepted this year that if a student is absent for more than 15 percent of the term, the student won’t be allowed to continue his education because the foundation year is based on training.
In response to a statement made by a parent who wanted the university to allow his diabetic son to visit the hospital for treatment during the foundation year, Dr. Al-Othman said, “The solution is not to give your son, who I regard as my son too, an excuse to go out of the university to visit the hospital. The solution is to have a medical unit at the building of the foundation year so students with similar medical conditions can save time and effort.”
“The Medical City of King Khalid University Hospital should provide this medical unit,” he added.