“The progress of any nation entirely depends on the extent it achieves in building and developing its human resources. Higher education represents one of the most important means of developing human resources, which in turn is considered a strategic investment for any country.”
Those words appear on the official website for Saudi Arabia’s Ministry of Education, and recognise the absolute imperative nature of higher education in establishing a forward-thinking society.
“Through higher education programs, every nation manages to fulfil its needs of knowledgeable and skilled labour forces which labour market needs and which its national development requires. Higher education globally witnesses many of the changes, transformations and challenges imposed by the technical and information developments of the contemporary civilization.
“The real challenge facing the institutions of university higher education today is embodied in the development of knowledge economies, which represent “An economy directly based on the production, dissemination and use of knowledge and information in various production and service activities,”. To achieve this goal, the ministry has sought to direct the Saudi system of higher education towards real partnerships with the labour sector, where universities become research centres for knowledge production through developing programs and their methods to provide today’s students with the necessary knowledge and skills that would enable them to involve into the labour market based on the economics of knowledge,” the website goes on to state.
In the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, higher education has scored remarkable leaps both in quality and quantity. These leaps have drawn the attention of those interested in higher education affairs in various countries around the world.
“In this run, the Ministry of Education – Higher Education has adopted radical changes which in turn led to a new restructuring of the universities in our dear country to adapt with the orientations of the Saudi and the international labour markets. This reconstructing is achieved across a wide range of programs and procedures, short-, medium-and long-term plans to include a number of pivots. The most notable among these pivots are mainly seven which include: the acceptance and assimilation, harmonization, quality, finance, scientific research, scholarships and finally strategic planning.
“Actually, the ministry and the universities started to deal with the issue of quality from two important dimensions: firstly, raising the internal efficiency of universities by ensuring the quality of university education inputs, which was achieved by the establishment of the National Center for Assessment in Higher Education in 1421 AH. Secondly, raising the external efficiency of universities by adjusting the outputs and verifying their quality and achieving the academic and the institutional accreditation of the universities. To achieve this goal, The National Commission for Assessment and Academic Accreditation (NCAAA) was established in 1424 AH to be responsible for academic accreditation and quality assurance in higher education institutions.
“In the context of supporting the efforts of the universities and the institutions of higher education programs to reach advanced levels, the ministry has taken a number of qualitative initiatives aimed at raising the level of quality in universities which are represented in the three major projects. The first is the project of developing the creativity and the excellence of the faculty members. The second one is supporting the establishment of centres for research and scientific excellence in universities, in addition to what is approved in their budgets. The third project is to contribute with universities in supporting scientific societies,” the website continues.
“To diversify the sources of knowledge in the preparation of human resources, the scholarship program of the Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques came to reinforce this goal. The State has assigned more than seven billion riyals for the scholarships of the prestigious universities in a number of developed countries over the range of five years. Since scientific research is complementary to the educational activity and is considered an important tributary in the universities as a pillar of development and progress in all fields of science, and as a means of enhancing the concepts of the best knowledge economy, the ministry has sought to strengthen the role of universities in the service of scientific research through the development of scientific research centres. Among the forms of this development comes the development of science parks, technology parks and their incubators, including Dhahran Techno Valley, King Fahd University of Petroleum and Minerals, “Kasb Program” at King Saud University and The Advanced Scientific Park Project at King Abdulaziz University.
“In order to continue the development of the Saudi system of higher education, the ministry has initiated the preparation of a strategic plan for the future of higher education over the following twenty-five years, a plan which adopted the name of (Horizons Project).
“These great developments in higher education in Saudi Arabia have reflected the noble patronage and the great interest of the Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques, the Crown Prince and the prudent Saudi Government,” the site adds.
In May of 2016, the Ministry held a workshop on academic-industry partnerships initiatives, aimed at improving Saudi universities’ graduate’s occupational skills. The workshop was delivered under patronage of HE Minister of education Dr. Azzam ibn Muhammad Al Dakhil.
The workshop invited three universities, King Saud University, University of Ha’il and Al Majmaah University, to showcase their successful experiences at fostering fruitful partnerships with world leading companies and businesses of various industries. A number of Saudi major companies of the highest workforce localization rates with regard to technical and professional occupations empowered by Saudi university graduates participated at the workshop. The event was attended by education and academic vice rectors of several universities and a number of MoE advisors and specialists. His Excellency Dr. Abdulkader ibn Abdullah Al Fantookh Deputy for planning and information inaugurated the workshop on behalf of the minister of education.
The workshop involved achieving the ministry strategic goals as the axis of discussion and participants discussed the goals of quality improvement and raising higher education programs qualities and strengthening the local and international partnerships.
The country’s labour ministry has tightened rules for employing foreign labour in companies insisting that these businesses look to the domestic market first. With the assistance of the Ministry of Education, job fairs have been organized in the Kingdom with major domestic and international companies offering employment opportunities to Saudi graduates.
The Ministry of Education is very much at the forefront of the efforts to create a new skills-base and job opportunities for Saudi’s young population.