Saudi university holds urgent meeting on use of ‘Persian Gulf’ in exam


The administration of King Khaled University in the Saudi province of Asir held an urgent meeting over an English exam that contained the term “Persian Gulf”, a phrase which has been a major bone of contention between Iran and Gulf nations.

The meeting held to discuss the controversial English Writing 012 exam was attended by the dean of the School of Languages and Translation and the head of the English Department, the Saudi newspaper al-Riyadh reported.

After investigating the matter, the university issued a statement saying that including the term in the exam was an unintended mistake. The faculty member who set the exam, the statement explained, was questioned and turned out to be unaware of the political undertones of the term and the conflicts it has been causing.

The teacher, investigations revealed, put in the exam a passage from outside text books, which is usually the case with writing exams that aim at testing the student’s ability to write about a variety of topics including ones they have not studied throughout the academic year.

The statement explained that several schools of languages and translation across the kingdom depend in the exams on international references from renowned universities, yet an earlier decree stipulated removing the term “Persian Gulf” from texts used in exams.

The decree was issued after noticing the frequency of using the term in several of those books like ones issued by Oxford University.

However, several professors from outside Saudi Arabia or those who have temporary contracts like the one who stirred the latest controversy are not familiar with this decree.

The meeting resulted in crossing out the passage in question and distributing its grade among other questions in the exam.

(Translated from Arabic by Sonia Farid)