The 6th Saudi Scientific International Conference (SIC) is being held this week at Brunel University, London. The conference, featuring the theme “investment in knowledge,” is organized by the Saudi Students Clubs in the UK and the Republic of Ireland and sponsored by the Ministry of Higher Education — represented by the Saudi Cultural Bureau of the Royal Embassy of Saudi Arabia in London — and King Fahd University of Petroleum and Minerals Dhahran.
The conference organizers noted the “SIC is a great opportunity to build relationships and exchange experiences between Saudi and British universities and colleges, Saudi and British national research centers, companies and many key policymakers of education,” adding, “The conference is multidisciplinary, and the call for papers covers the subjects of Medical Science, Health and Social Studies, Engineering, Applied Science, Business and Economics, Politics and Law, Education and Linguistics, Humanities and ICT. Every year, more than 500 papers submitted and 70% of them last year accepted and presented in SIC.”
The keynote address was delivered yesterday by HRH Prince Mohammed bin Nawaf bin Abdulaziz Al Saud, Ambassador of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia to the United Kingdom. The Ambassador highlighted the importance of education in Saudi Arabia and the progress made in the 80 years since the Kingdom was founded. Today we provide Prince Mohammed’s keynote remarks for your consideration.
HRH Prince Mohammed bin Nawaf bin Abdulaziz Al Saud
The Sixth Saudi Scientific International Conference
Brunel University, London
October 12, 2012
Your Excellencies, Ladies and Gentlemen, I am delighted to have been invited to inaugurate the Sixth Saudi Scientific International Conference.
This conference is a collaboration between two relatively young universities — Brunel University from the United Kingdom and King Fahd University of Petroleum and Minerals from the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, and both have contributed to making this conference a reality, the first by hosting it, and the second by sponsoring it.
I want to extend my personal thanks and appreciation to the Vice Chancellor and Principal, Professor Julia Buckingham and to Dr. Khalid al Sultan, Rector of King Fahd University of Petroleum and Minerals for their generous contribution to this conference, and to the Mayor of Hillingdon, Councillor Michael Markham for his presence here today. My thanks and appreciation also go to all the leaders and members of the Conference’s Organizing team, from the Saudi Students Clubs in the UK and Ireland, Brunel University and King Fahd University of Petroleum and Minerals.
They have worked tirelessly and with the full support of the Saudi Ministry of Higher Education, represented by the Saudi Cultural Bureau, to make this Conference a showcase of knowledge and research.
Your Excellencies, Ladies and gentlemen, I am in the fortunate position of having been able to look at the exhibition and displays mounted by the students. I never fail to be impressed and encouraged by the range of subjects that are being studied by young Saudis, and the commitment they show to their research and the pride they show in their achievements. Their pride is well deserved and I salute them.
I also want to acknowledge the conference’s agenda. This conference will discuss some 90 topics, presented in more than 150 papers and 245 posters, by speakers from Saudi Arabia, the United Kingdom, Ireland and Kuwait. These speakers will address a gathering of more than 1100 participants.
This is the 6th Saudi Scientific International Conference, and it is heartening to note that year on year the scope and reach of each conference has expanded.
With exhibits, cultural activities, workshops and training sessions, this conference is one of the significant events in the UK academic calendar and valued by the ever-increasing numbers of Saudi undergraduate and postgraduate students around the world.
I would like to wish this Conference, its organizers, sponsors, hosts, speakers and participants a similar and even bigger success than that achieved by its predecessors.
Your Excellencies, Ladies and gentlemen, the objective of this Conference is to encourage Saudi undergraduate and postgraduate students, in every discipline, to work hard and push the boundaries of knowledge not just for their own satisfaction but also for the good of the wider community. They are the flag bearers for the Saudi Arabia of tomorrow and continuing the legacy left by the founder of modern Saudi Arabia, Abdulaziz bin Abdulrahman Al Saud, or Ibn Saud as the west has come to know him.
This legacy has been honoured by successive kings who have successfully led the nation through a variety of challenges and changes. And under the current leadership of the Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques, King Abdullah bin Abdulaziz and the Crown Prince, HRH Prince Salman bin Abdulaziz, the acquisition of knowledge and reforms in the Saudi education system are cornerstones of government policy.
I would like to take a few moments to look back over the past 80 years since the founding of modern Saudi Arabia in 1932 so that you can understand how the country has gone from being a disparate collection of warring desert tribes to one which is the leading Arab economic power with the largest economy in the MENA region by a long way. From a peninsula isolated from outside influences to an international economic powerhouse, the planet’s most important supplier of energy, and a politically engaged entity whose leaders, diplomats, economists and financiers are actively involved in supporting peace and progress in every region of the world.
Integral to the success of the Saudi state has been its astute development of the nation’s economic potential. Primary among these has been its abundant petroleum reserves. Ownership of the oil industry was gradually acquired by the state throughout the 1970s, resulting in complete Saudi ownership of the world’s largest state oil company, Saudi Aramco, by 1980. Oil revenues account for about 75% of budget revenues and 90% of export revenues.
Over 60 companies, among them the large monopolies that make up the bulk of the Saudi economy in industry, agriculture and social services, are totally or partially state-owned. That said, the government has worked hard over the last few decades to diversify and open most sectors of the economy to the domestic private sector and foreign investors, such that around 45% of GDP comes from private investments. In fact, the long-term official objectives of the Saudi state are to diversify the economy, reduce the Kingdom’s dependence on oil revenue, build up its infrastructure, maintain stable prices and promote sufficient economic growth to ensure the provision of satisfactory employment.
Massive infrastructure layouts have been made since the emergence of the state, in hospitals, schools, railroads, ports, highways, airports, desalination plants, industrial cities, refineries and production facilities, and telecommunications. This diversification has come about as a result of Saudi Arabia now having a business leadership which is largely autonomous of the state, that frequently presses for an economic system characterized by transparency and lack of corruption, and with an independent judicial system giving effect to clearly defined regulations. In short, the Saudi state has a strong active presence in the economic sphere, yet its pattern over time shows varying economic efforts aimed at centralizing, diversifying, modernizing, investing, nationalizing and privatizing in order to achieve economic autarchy and self-sustaining growth.
In 1932, educational institutions were scarce, illiteracy was high, the curriculum was largely rooted in social sciences, and only boys and men went to school. In short, up until the mid‑1990s, students in Saudi schools were predominantly taught by rote with no independent analytical techniques being taught. As we entered the 21st century, Saudi leaders began committing to an overhaul of the educational system. This has been going on for the last decade, both as a response to, and the presence of, extremist views in Saudi Arabia and in an effort to modernize and improve the economic future of the Kingdom. Along with a more cosmopolitan and science-based curriculum, educators and Saudi leaders are beginning to integrate Saudi history into primary education in an attempt to expose students to the concept of the Saudi state and Saudi identity from a young age.
Not only has the curriculum been modernized and diversified, but the Saudi state is now the regional leader in education spending, with nearly 46 percent of all government expenditures going toward education and vocational training. In February 2007 the Government of the Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques approved a six-year, $2.3 billion project to re‑train teachers and rewrite the curriculum, including materials on Islam, Arabic, math and science. The 2009 state budget allocated $28 billion for the construction of more than 1,500 new schools, in addition to more than 4,000 already under construction.
Huge investments in higher education have also been made over the last decade. King Abdullah University of Science and Technology has world-class facilities, top international faculty and a $20 billion endowment. The state-run King Abdullah bin Abdulaziz Scholarship Program funds over 130,000 Saudi students abroad in various under‑graduate and graduate programs. And the largest women’s university in the world, the Princess Nora Bint Abdulrahman University (PNU), opened in May 2011 with a $5.3 billion new campus. This is a sign of the growing openness to women in higher education in the Kingdom, as they now make up more than 50% of the total university student population. I was very glad to host a ceremony in the Embassy recently held to honour Saudi students who had registered patents, made significant scientific discoveries or reached excellence and honour levels in their fields of study.
However, it is academic gatherings like this conference, God willing, that will build on these foundations to move the society forward in its ambitious journey towards sustainable growth and development for many generations to come.
Credit for these bold initiatives must be given to the Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques, King Abdullah bin Abdulaziz. These initiatives are laying the foundations for our nation’s move towards greater acquisition of knowledge.
Your Excellencies, Ladies and Gentlemen. Over the last 80 years we have fostered a political, economic and social climate that is stable, forward-looking, and even forward thinking. This is not to say there isn’ʹt more work to be done, for there always is.
As I look around, I see so many dedicated Saudis striving with all their might to help their country make the most of its blessings. And I am proud. But perhaps, in a way, I am not the proudest. No, the proudest must be that man and his companions who 80 years ago strove so hard to give us so much; that man who is, in many ways, the father of us all, and whose principles and ideals energize every day the intricate and intense efforts of his many children, both natural and national. Yes, Saudi Arabia, you have done well by your founder. Long may you live his dream, and long may you be blessed by the infinite love and kindness of Allah.
Thank you very much.
About Prince Mohammed bin Nawaf bin Abdulaziz Al-Saud
Prince Mohammed was born in 1953 in Riyadh. He was educated at The Capital Institute High School in Riyadh. He is a graduate of The School of Foreign Service at Georgetown University, Washington DC and carried out postgraduate studies and graduated from the John F Kennedy School of Government, Harvard University. He is President of the Harvard Alumni Association of Saudi Arabia.
Prince Mohammed is married to HH Princess Fadwa bint Khaled bin Abdallah Al-Saud.
Prince Mohammed worked for the Royal Commission for Jubail and Yanbu for two years before transferring to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in 1984 where he first worked in the Minister’s Cabinet before being promoted to Inspector General at the Ministry.
In 1995, Prince Mohammed was appointed as Ambassador to Italy and Malta. In 1998 he was elected as President of the Council of Administration for the Islamic Cultural Centre of Italy. He was Dean of the Arab Ambassadors’ Corps.
In December 2005, Prince Mohammed was appointed as Ambassador of The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia to the United Kingdom and Ireland.
King Fahd University of Petroleum & Minerals (KFUPM) was officially established by Royal Decree on 5 Jumada 1, 1383 (23 September, 1963). The first students were admitted a year later, on 23 September, 1964, when 67 young men enrolled in what was then named the College of Petroleum and Minerals (CPM). Since that time, the University enrollment has grown rapidly.
Several significant events have marked the University’s growth. In 1971, at the first graduation ceremony, four men received their baccalaureate degrees in engineering. In 1975, the College of Petroleum and Minerals became the University of Petroleum and Minerals, a change both in name and academic status. In 1986, the University was renamed: The King Fahd University of Petroleum and Minerals. As a result of the vast growth of KFUPM, 18,563 degrees were awarded including 1,821 Master’s and 86 Ph.D. degree by the end of the 2004/2005 academic year.
The rapid growth of KFUPM is related to the rapid economic and technical development of the Kingdom. It also reflects the rising expectations of the people of Saudi Arabia, the expanding opportunities for the country’s young men, and the increasing importance of the Kingdom as a major source of the world’s energy.
About Brunel University
The first step in the establishment of Brunel University was in 1928, when Middlesex County Council transferred its Junior Technical School, founded in Chiswick in 1910, to Acton in west London. Here it grew rapidly both in size and reputation, winning the respect of parents, employers and the education authorities alike. Its original purpose was to provide recruits for local industry and early statistics collected by HM Inspectors show that between 1929 and 1933, 90 per cent of boys leaving the school found employment in the engineering and building trades. This was to be a well-founded precedent to the unparalleled graduate employment record Brunel enjoys today.
Brunel is a world-class university based in Uxbridge, West London. Now over 40 years old, our mission has always been to combine academic rigour with the practical, entrepreneurial and imaginative approach pioneered by our namesake Isambard Kingdom Brunel.
The name of Brunel University has become as well-known and respected in engineering circles as was the name of Isambard Kingdom Brunel a hundred years ago. Both reputations are well deserved, reflecting outstanding technical competence, creativity and commitment which have resulted in important advances in science and knowledge benefiting the lives of countless people. However, today, Brunel University’s influence extends far beyond the fields of engineering, science and technology, which were its traditional strengths. A long succession of developments and mergers has brought the University from modest beginnings to a major force on the UK higher education scene.