Saudi Arabia could emulate China’s higher education success if it follows through with plans to invest heavily in its education system, a leading university president has suggested. Michael Arthur, president and provost of UCL (University College, London), was speaking about the country’s new Vision 2030, which includes plans for Saudi Arabia to reduce its dependence on oil, diversify its economy and develop public service sectors, including education.
He says it’s clear Saudi Arabia’s new Crown Prince, Mohammad bin Salman, is “developing and investing in a future” that will have “a very large number of young people coming through the population” and it is going to be “really important” that universities are a key part of this.
Inaugurating the MENA (Middle East & North Africa Region) Universities Summit in March, Prof. Arthur said: “There is huge social capital that goes with being educated in a university. This is the same around the world — people who go to university generally are a public good for the country, they contribute hugely, they don’t get involved in difficult behaviours, so I think there are many reasons why (investing in education) is a good idea. The Crown Prince and leaders of higher education have spotted that and it seems to me that they obviously have the resources to invest appropriately.”
Arthur also compared Saudi Arabia’s vision to that of China, which has invested large amounts of money in its universities in a short period of time, to great success. “If you look at China over the past 20 years and you look at its higher education system, they’ve shown what can be done with careful and thoughtful strategic approaches and with appropriate levels of funding,” he said. “So I would imagine that the same will happen and is already happening in the Middle East and particularly here in Saudi Arabia.”