Foreign universities can now set up branches in Saudi Arabia under a new law approved by the Kingdom’s cabinet, Education Minister Hamad al-Shaikh said on Tuesday, according to the state news agency SPA.
“The new system will allow foreign universities to open branches in accordance to specific regulations to boost competitiveness to raise efficiency of the university education,” SPA cited al-Shaikh as saying.
The move, which the minister called a “qualitative leap,” will ensure that the universities set to open branches in the Kingdom will remain in line with the general policies of the state, but still maintain their independence.
Each university will have a board of trustees, as well as international consultative councils to help them make decisions in regards to policies and curriculums, al-Shaikh said.
The decision was well received by students in the Kingdom.
“I think it’s a good idea for those who can’t study abroad because of different reasons, such as financial or personal matters,” Leen Qurashi, a university student in Saudi Arabia, told Al Arabiya.
Qurashi added that the new system could push some students who want to study abroad to reconsider their decision.
Fahad Faisal al-Saud, a university student, told Al Arabiya that the move could also bring students from abroad to the Kingdom, a decision made easier by recent reforms allowing tourists to travel to the country.
“It’s a good shift to try, and instead of sending students abroad, Saudi Arabia will start receiving students. It’s something we tried to do and found success with in KUAST. The only difference now is we’re using international universities to try and reach those goals,” he said.
The new system is aligned with Vision 2030, an economic plan aimed at increasing total tourism spending in the Kingdom — by local citizens as well as foreigners — to $46.6 billion in 2020 from $27.9 billion in 2015, the government had said.
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