UNSW will play a key role in providing a quality education to the growing number of Saudis studying overseas, according to a visiting Saudi minister.
The Saudi Deputy Minister of Education, Dr Mohammad Alohali, said sweeping changes in education policy in Saudi Arabia meant Saudi students were being encouraged to adopt a global, outward looking perspective.
With the backing of 40,000 government scholarships, there will be a sharp increase in the number of Saudi students studying in the West. Saudi Arabia is the world's largest oil producer, and is channeling oil revenue into a massive expansion of its higher education sector.
On a recent visit to UNSW, alongside a sizeable delegation of Saudi university officials, Dr Alohali said Australia had been identified as one of a list of priority destinations for Saudi students. Australia's visa conditions were one attraction, but Dr Alohali said other factors, such as a sense of community and tolerance, were taken into account.
He said Australia's multicultural society meant Saudi students had little trouble fitting in. UNSW, in particular, has facilities for Muslim students and is located in a region of Sydney well served by halal butchers and restaurants.
The current Saudi scholarship program aims to create a new generation of internationally qualified Saudi experts and academics who will return home to staff the expanding Saudi university sector.
Although Saudi has about one quarter of the world's oil reserves, Dr Alohali said his government was interested in UNSW's expertise in renewable energy, such as solar power and water management. Saudi Arabia relies heavily on desalination for its fresh water supplies and solar power is suitable for desert environments.
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