Saudi Arabia’s mega project appoints founding president for first university in NEOM

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Saudi Arabia’s NEOM has appointed Dr. Andreas Cangellaris as the founding president of NEOM U – the first university in the megacity project.

Cangellaris has served as Vice-Chancellor for Academic Affairs and Provost since 2018 at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign.


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“Dr. Cangellaris will lead the development of NEOM U on its journey to become a pre-eminent knowledge institution that supports NEOM’s vision as an innovation hub and a society enhanced by the opportunities of new technology,” a statement from NEOM said.

It referred to the Education, Research and Innovation (ERI) hub that seeks to enable future generations through technology from the early years.

“It will be a university without boundaries, leveraging next-generation educational technologies with both on-site and online learning,” the statement said, adding that its graduates will fortify digital and technological thinking and seek the ability to design innovative solutions.

The university will initially offer academic and research programs covering computer science, engineering and design, media, art and entertainment, as well as business.

“To change the world for the better, you need everyone to become a change agent. And this is what NEOM U will do by bringing together learners from the Kingdom and the world in NEOM’s living laboratory and immersing them in the learning of how the deliberate, responsible, innovative use of technology can improve our world and the human condition,” Cangellaris said in a statement to the media.

NEOM was announced by Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman in 2017 as part of the Kingdom’s drive to diversify its oil-reliant economy.

The Crown Prince intends NEOM to be a futuristic, sustainable community joined together by The Line – a 170-kilometer stretch of car-free communities linked by public transport.

The university’s founding president has reportedly overseen academic and research programs of US educational institutions with over 50,000 students, 15 colleges and over 150 programs of study.

He is said to have received his Bachelor of Science degree in Electrical Engineering from the University of Thessaloniki, Greece and his graduate degrees, a Master of Science and Ph.D. in Electrical Engineering from the University of California, Berkeley.

“NEOM U is our first step toward developing a post-secondary education that is accessible to all, attracting the brightest students from all over Kingdom and the world,” said the CEO of NEOM Nadhmi al-Nasr in a statement to the media. “We want it to be a differentiator and a powerful signal of NEOM’s commitment to pioneering ideas in a world inspired by innovation.”

“Education is central to achieving NEOM’s vision and ambitious goals,” al-Nasr said.

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