RIYADH — Twenty-five Saudi academics will spend this summer conducting post-doctoral research at top British universities. This was revealed by BAE Systems and the British Council at a joint press conference at Al-Faisaliyah Hotel here Sunday.
"These academics will spend the summer in Britain doing research under the British Council’s Post-Doctoral Summer Research Program, which has been sponsored by BAE Systems since 1991," said Jim McDowell, the managing director and chief executive of BAE Systems Saudi Arabia.
"The company, operating in the Kingdom since 1973, is proud to support this program exclusive to Saudis because it believes that this is extremely beneficial to the educational development of the whole Saudi community," he added.
The summer post-doctoral program was first introduced in 1989 in collaboration with King Fahd University for Petroleum and Minerals.
"At that time it was limited to academics of that university, but since 1991 with BAE Systems sponsorship, the program opened to academics from all Saudi universities," Chris Palmer, deputy director of British Council in Saudi Arabia, told Saudi Gazette.
"The program, since its inception in 1989, supported 453 Saudi scholars helping them to fulfill their leading roles in their universities. This was only possible because of the generous support of BAE Systems," Palmer said.
Asked whether the program was geared to certain research issues, McDowell said the research topics “were not narrowly directed, rather it was left to tackle the broad challenges and problems facing the global community.”
The main purposes of the scholarship program were to build research capabilities and create opportunities for Saudi academics to interact and network with their counterparts at leading British universities.
Regarding the outcome of the program so far, Palmer said: "Indeed we have had tangible outcomes from the program. One example is Dr. Salih Hedaythi who has discovered a new fungus that infects the brain. This was with collaboration of Dr. Colin Campbell from the Mycological Reference Laboratory under the direction of Professor Donald Mackenzie at the Public Health Laboratory Services in London."
Saudi Gazette met with two academics affiliated with the program who were present at the press conference.
Dr. Ahmad Khudair of King Saud University, who was part of the program last year, said:"My participation was wonderful. It benefited me a lot as I got opportunities for networking. I gained research skills in an advanced academic environment. My research topic was the use of Facebook in higher education."
Dr. Ali Al-Inezi, also from King Saud University, is leaving for Britain this summer as a participant. "I am anxious to go because it is a good chance to interact and network with British scholars and learn from their experience. My current research interest is in the application of artificial diamonds in the medical field."