James B. Smith
This week, 83 top US universities will be in Riyadh for the International Exhibition and Conference on Higher Education (IECHE). IECHE is the premier educational exhibition in Saudi Arabia; universities from around the world come to recruit students while exploring new opportunities for international partnerships. It is a unique opportunity for Saudi students and their families to get to know these institutions and learn about the programs they offer. I encourage you to visit the exhibition and meet with the representatives of US schools who are eager to help young Saudi students, academics, and professionals find the right place to study in the United States.
I know that Saudi students today have many choices of where to study, including a growing number of institutions here in the Kingdom, which makes the US ever more honored to host so many Saudi students in our colleges and universities. The Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques, King Abdullah bin Abdul-Aziz Al Saud, has wisely placed education at the top of the Kingdom’s priorities. The development of the Saudi education sector and the implementation of the King Abdullah Scholarship Program are examples of this investment in education. More than 70,000 Saudi students are currently in the US, which is an all-time high. There also has been significant growth in educational opportunities inside Saudi Arabia as the Kingdom strives to develop world class institutions of higher learning at home. Over the past 10 years the number of public and private Saudi universities has almost tripled, and more Saudi men and women are pursuing a university education than ever before in this nation’s history.
I am also proud that this growth includes partnerships between Saudi universities and over 80 US institutions. These partnerships are with leading US institutions: the Massachusetts Institute of Technology is working with King Fahd University of Petroleum and Minerals; Georgetown University has a program to train physicians from Prince Sultan Military College of Health Science; and Harvard University is working with Dar Al Hekma College, King Saud University, and Al Faisal University in the fields of business, medicine, and law — to name just a few.
It is my great hope that American and Saudi universities will broaden these partnerships to include exchange programs that will bring American students to Saudi Arabia. Each of my children spent time abroad during college, adding to their educational experience and preparing them for the international job market, so I personally know how international education enriches both students and their families. I believe that Saudi Arabia can and should become a study abroad destination for American students.
As we celebrate 80 years of US-Saudi relations, we can look toward the future with optimism knowing that the young people of both our countries are increasingly studying and researching together, developing new understanding and friendships to last a lifetime. We hope you and your family will be part of this future and choose to spend part of your studies in the United States. I invite you to visit our educational advising staff at IECHE and explore the various US institutions at the exhibition or join our Education USA community on Facebook at www.facebook.com/EducationUSASaudiArabia.
— James B. Smith is the US Ambassador to the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia.