Supporters of what is to be called the King Abdullah University of Science and Technology, or Kaust, wonder whether the king is simply building another gated island to be dominated by foreigners, like the compounds for oil industry workers that have existed here for decades, or creating an institution that will have a real impact on Saudi society and the rest of the Arab world.
“There are two Saudi Arabias,” said Jamal Khashoggi, the editor of Al Watan, a newspaper. “The question is which Saudi Arabia will take over.”
The king has broken taboos, declaring that the Arabs have fallen critically behind much of the modern world in intellectual achievement and that his country depends too much on oil and not enough on creating wealth through innovation.
A great and much needed move by the King of Saudi Arabia to establish a much needed world class science and technology institution in the Arab World. The $12.5 billion project will hopefully have impact beyond Saudi Arabia extending into the whole region. Where most of the world energy reserves sit, there is a great lack in educational resources targeted towards that sector.
The new graduate institution with it’s moderate environment will have a social impact as well which could tip the social order in favor of openness and enlightenment.