From Science (Dec 8, 2006)
Saudi Arabia, which spends less on research and education per capita than almost all other countries, announced last week that it will commit $2.6 billion to build the King Abdullah University of Science and Technology in the desert. Undergraduate degrees in diverse fields including biotechnology and computer science will be offered beginning in 2008, with enrollment restricted to Saudis and some foreign "outstanding Muslim students," says a Saudi official. There are no plans yet for a Ph.D. program.
This is the latest step in a recent push for scientific development in the Arab world. But the bottleneck is not money, says Rabi Mohtar, an agricultural engineer at Purdue University in West Lafayette, Indiana, who is working with the Qatar Foundation to boost science in the region. The lack of prestige and opportunities in the sciences drives the vast majority of Arab researchers abroad to study and work. However, "having big educational investments will hopefully raise the level of public awareness," he says, and may entice Arab scientists back home.