USSaudiForum | Saudi Higher Education: Creating the Workforce

Published: December 3, 2013

Share Article

Note: SUSRIS is continuing to provide the extensive collection of transcripts, articles, interviews, and more from the 3rd US-Saudi Business Opportunities Forum. They will be posted and distributed through the SUSRIS e-newsletter (sign up on the home page) and added to the Forum Index (Link Here).

Logo USSBOF Banner 1

US-Saudi Business Opportunities Forum
Los Angeles, California – Sep 16-18, 2013
Panel 5: Higher Education: Creating the Workforce for the Future


  • Mohammed Al-Shaalan, Director, SACM E-Services, Saudi Arabian Cultural Mission


  • Dr. Musaid Assaf, Assistant Cultural Attaché for Technical Affairs, Saudi Arabian Cultural Mission
  • Nahlah Al-Jubeir, Director, Center for Career Development, Saudi Arabian Cultural Mission
  • Dr. Samar Al-Saggaf, Director of the Department of Medical and Health Science Programs at the Saudi Arabian Cultural Mission
  • Dr. Jeffrey Akman, Vice President for Health Affairs and Dean, Walter A. Bloedorn Chair in Administrative Medicine, School of Medicine and Health Sciences, George Washington University
  • Dr. Suhair H. Al Qurashi, President and Chief Executive Officer, Dar Al-Hekma College


Verbatim Transcript by SUSRIS

[Mohammed Al-Shaalan] Salam aleikum. Ladies and gentlemen, good afternoon and welcome to the panel “Higher Education: Creating the Workforce for the Future”. Many studies suggest that there is a correlation and a major link between higher education and the economic development. Higher education enhances economic development in many ways including the provision for human capital.

The changes in the global economy, the globalization, and the advancement of technology have affected higher education in many ways. The need for a knowledge-based economy has drive higher education lawmakers to overhaul the educational process to produce more qualified and innovative graduates. With fifty percent of its population under the age of twenty-five investments in education has become a strategic direction for Saudi Arabia. Its public expenditure on education as percentage of GDP reached ten percent where according to the World Bank most of the developed countries spent on average five percent. As a result, the number of new schools and universities has grown exponentially. New laws and regulations have been passed and the unique scholarship programs have been designed. With all the reforms in the labor market, the Saudization and diversification of income, the Ministry of Higher Education found itself in the middle of the field and a major player in the game. In some cases, the universities and the faculty members are drivers for reform and in most cases the output of higher education is the emblem of those sectors.



As a result, the Ministry of Higher Education has adopted radical reforms and implemented a wide range of programs and procedures, short, medium, and long-term plans. That covers seven major areas – acceptance rate, partnership with international universities, quality of education, financing and funding, scientific research, scholarship program, and finally strategic planning.

This panel discussion on higher education in Saudi Arabia will focus on the increase in number of universities in the country, existing and potential partnerships between institutions of higher education and between universities and the private sector. Also the panel will discuss job placement and professional training initiatives. Similar to efforts in education on the primary and secondary level, billions of dollars are budgeted to help expand existing universities, establish new ones in less developed regions of the country, promote foreign scholarship programs, cultivate research relationships with universities around the world, and create professional training programs to prepare the workforce for knowledge-based non-oil economy.

With that I’d would like to welcome Dr. Musaid Assaf, Assistant Attaché for Technical Affairs of the Saudi Arabian Cultural Mission, to talk about the increase in Saudi higher education enrollment and institutions, expansion of foreign scholarships, and the contribution to the development.

[Dr. Musaid Assaf] Salam aleikum. Thank you, Mohammed. Good evening everybody. I’d like to start by thanking you for joining us in this presentation, and I’d like also to convey from Mohammed Alireza, the Saudi Cultural Attaché, warmest regards and sincere apology for not being able to make it. He was supposed to give this presentation but he just came back from a grueling trip to China and by the time he made it to Washington he felt sick. I’d also like to congratulate the organizers of this event on a job well done. It’s been amazing.

Our presentation this evening is about higher education, and specifically facilitating development through education. Throughout this event since it started yesterday, we hear about huge investments here and there, technology and oil and everything else. But like it’s been said many times the investment in the Saudi individuals, especially our youth, is the most important investment you can think of. And it is a guaranteed investment that will pay off.

I will talk about higher education in general, but I put a special emphasis on the King Abdullah Scholarship Program, and especially here in the United States. Now, the idea of the scholarship program is not simply to send our youth all over the place to get diplomas. It is for what our King Abdullah said – it is for them to know the world and the world to know them. And we basically now have two hundred thousand ambassadors worldwide.



With that I’m going to start the presentation, which shows some of the main features of the higher education and the scholarship program. Now, we have what you call a five year plan, and we are on the ninth plan. And these are the main objectives of the current plan, which is improving standard of living and quality of life, balance development among regions, diversification of the economic base, moving towards a knowledge-based economy, and enhancement of competitive capacities and human resources development. And higher education is important to all of them, but specifically the last three.

Now, we talk about higher education in Saudi Arabia. Ten years ago there were only 21 universities all over the country. These days we have more than 67 universities, as shown on the map. This table shows some numbers for the higher education in Saudi Arabia, the new enrollment, and the enrolled, and the graduated. This is for the year 12-13. And this is the same data. This shows the difference in the gender enrollment in higher education, and again you see the difference between the males and females. And it is interesting to see the graduated females are higher than the males. And this is the same thing for the private universities.

Now we come to King Abdullah Scholarship Program. This map shows the total number in thousands in each country, and this is the scholarship student excluding their dependents, their spouses or their kids. Now, worldwide the scholarship program covers more than thirty-eight countries, and this table shows the distribution by the type of scholarship. And this one also shows by major or degree. Now, this is the distribution of students based on major – this is worldwide. And this is distribution by gender. And it is interesting to see that in science, education, and physical sciences, the number of females is equal or higher than the males, towards the bottom. Now, King Abdullah Scholarship Program acceptance and graduation, these are the numbers from the year 2010 till the current year. And this is the expected – or the expected to graduate for each year.

Now, we come to the King Abdullah Scholarship Program in the USA. There’s the number of Saudi students based on the kind of scholarship – sorry, this is based on self-funded and employees. I can’t see very well from here. And this is based on the degree. And now this is distribution of students based on major in the USA. As you can see business and management is the highest, followed by engineering and engineering industries, humanities, IT, and the medical sciences. And this is, again, distribution by gender. And we see the same trend for the science education, life sciences; the females are higher than the males. And these are the numbers that are accepted or graduated in the USA alone. So in 2015 the expected number was fifteen thousand. And this is the projection for the next four years. This map shows the distribution by state in thousands. Now, one of the most popular of course is California as you can see, followed by Florida and Texas – I guess our students like warm weather.

Now, the scholarship benefits include all these items, monthly stipend for students and their spouses and children if they have them, full academic tuition, full medical and dental coverage with no copay, annual round trip tickets from the states to Saudi Arabia. They also have additional benefits for the top ranked schools and high GPA, they also get scientific material allowances, and if they have special needs they also get a scholarship for that. We also have a program to honor and reward distinguished students, and we also support students if they want to get a patent – we pay the full costs of obtaining a patent. So far we have about two hundred applications. The first one that was approved was last July. It is interesting that whenever a delegation from the Saudi Cultural Mission visits a university and meets non-Saudi students and explain the benefits of the scholarship, the first question we get is what – how do we become Saudis? Thank you so much.

[Al-Shaalan] I was hoping that microphone worked so I don’t have to walk up every time. Now as we have seen the numbers of graduates of the students in the United States, male and female, so after that they need the training, the internship. With that I would like to welcome Mrs. Nahlah Al-Jubeir, Director, Center for Career Development for the Saudi Arabian Cultural Mission. She will talk about the professional training and corporate partnership programs.

[Nahlah Al-Jubeir] Thank you, Mohammed. Salam aleikum. Today I’m going to be talking about – first let me backtrack. First let me thank the organizers for doing such a wonderful job in organizing the event, and I’m so happy to be able to participate in this event, and hopefully you’ll benefit from it, from my presentation.

I am heading the Center for Career Development. It’s a new program. It was established in March 2013 to assist Saudi students in broadening their skillsets and deepening their professional experience by connecting them with potential internships and training opportunities in the United States, and helping them find jobs in the Kingdom with Saudi and international organizations. And the Center has become even more important considering the data that we have. In May 2013, we had 7,283 students graduate from American universities, which is a high number. Well, at least when I did the slideshow we had 79,574 students, but that number is no longer valid. Our numbers are not static; they’re very fluid. If I give you a number now, by the end of the day the number will have changed. So I’m going to just say we have approximately 80,000 students. And if you look at the historical data since the King Abdulaziz Scholarship Program started in 2005 we’ve had an average annual increase of thirty-two percent. So the number’s going to go up even more in the coming years since the program has been extended, so we expect the number of students to increase and also the graduating class each year to increase. And a little information about the graduating class, and even the students are here. We have the top three majors are business and management, engineering industries, and IT. These are the top degrees that we have.



Now, given that information, what are the benefits for students to approach our career center. Well, there are many. One is it gives them an opportunity to translate the classroom experience or learning into practical experience. Another one is they will have exposure to potential employers before making a final commitment about the future. And another one would be the cultural exchange between companies and the employees. When the student comes to the United States he is exposed to the academic life, and then later on to the social life vis a vis students or via the community. By gaining experience with American companies, they get experience with a professional life. So that rounds up their experience overall. Another benefit for working with American companies is that a lot of Americans have not been exposed to Saudis, so that gives them an opportunity to interact with them and get a different view than what they see in the media or what they get from the typical stereotyping. So it’s a good exchange between the two and beneficial to both sides.

Now that I’ve addressed the benefits for the students, what are the benefits for American companies who are giving internships and job training in the United States? Well for one they have access to a large pool of well-educated Saudi students I mean we have eighty-thousand students. The other one is it provides exposure to potential employees before making a final commitment about the future. And then thirdly it gives them the cultural exchange between company employees and Saudi students, like I’ve mentioned before the benefits.

I’m sorry, I was reading the wrong thing. Let me backtrack. The benefits for the companies is to access a large pool of Saudi students. It lowers overseas training costs, and by that I mean when I’m a company and I have a branch in Saudi Arabia and I want to train them in the United States, sending them to the United States is very costly. You have relocation costs, visa costs, and all of that. If the students’ already in the United States you don’t have to incur those costs. Then the second one was the opportunity to know you perspective employers before offering permanent jobs. It can be very expensive when you hire somebody and there’s not a good match. And then the third one is the cultural exchange, which I’ve mentioned before.

And the next one is what are the benefits for organizations in Saudi Arabia? Well, first again they have access to a large pool of educated students, lower hiring costs – if I know that I have a center which is our center that can provide me with the students I want I don’t need to go to recruitment companies, I don’t need to go to job fairs in the United States focusing on so many different areas. It’s a one-stop shopping basically. So that lowers costs. Then the third one would be you decrease overseas training costs of future employees, so that would be , then the fourth one that is not on this slide is when you hire – the Saudis companies, when they hire students who have been trained in the United States they are familiar with American business practices, they’re proficient in the language, so they’re a good resource for the companies meaning that if they know how to interact because they know the cultural background of those companies and of Americans they’re less likely to make errors because of cultural misunderstanding, which can be very costly to companies, so you are avoiding that issue.

Now that you know what the benefits are for both sides, what are the ways in which you can connect with Saudi students? We have the ads, we have on our website we post ads of companies that have jobs so that they can reach our students. We have the job board that is open only for scholarship students, so employers that want to reach our students they can register. And both of them are currently free of charge. At this time we have approximately twenty-five hundred students who have registered with the job board and over one hundred companies that are also registered. And then we have also the job fairs. Currently we have one job fair a year and it coincides with the graduation, but we’re planning to expand that number to four and have the other three be more sector-specific. Hopefully we’ll have one for the health care, one for engineering and engineering industries, and a third one for business and IT.

Now that you’ve heard some of the benefits, let me give you some examples of successful stories. We had a second year software engineer student. She was asked to test a software program. Whenever she tried to run it, it would crash. She was able to find seven bugs that were affecting the program. Another example is Jafar he worked in business development and performed an analysis of the training market opportunities for a Fortune 100 company. His recommendations were well received by senior leaders across the company. I’m going to skip this one. And then we have another example. It’s a major U.S. company offered twenty internships to our students, and the following year the company offered employment to most of those students. The students will now go through a two-year training program, and once they’re done they’re going to be assigned to jobs in Saudi Arabia with the company’s operations.

Now given what I’ve mentioned, the benefits for the students, the benefits for the companies, no matter in what way you look at it it’s a win-win situation for everyone, because everybody benefits. So I encourage you to consider our center for partnership because we can provide you with students that will help your companies, and I guess that concludes it. And thank you so much for listening.

[Al-Shaalan] Thank you, Nahlah. That was very interesting presentation. We have seen these very excellent examples on an individual level. And on a major level we have a very excellent example in the medical field. I’d like to welcome Dr. Samar Al-Saggaf, Director of the Department. She oversees the Department of Medical and Health Science Programs at the Saudi Arabian Cultural Mission.

[Dr. Samar Al-Saggaf] Hi everybody. Salam aleikum. First of all, when King Abdullah Scholarship has been coming since more than five years. This is the smartest program ever in this century because we have more than two hundred thousand students all over the world. And this is reflected in annual budget of the country. The annual budget for 2013 considered highest than 2012 by almost twenty percent. And twenty percent of sixteen percent has been invested through the education and medical fields. This will reflect how we are seeing that, where these investments, where the capital investment will go and what shall we do. And it seems that in reflections to our graduates and scholarship and well-developed human resources, higher budgets for education, there’s a many scholarship not only outside Saudi Arabia but a scholarship also benefit the private school and the private universities, improve the infrastructure that we have, well-established health and social services, more scholarships abroad and inside, and this is will give the nation, the people in our country more higher income and more economic stability in the futures.

And why we concentrate in the medical education, why there is a starting of a medical program in U.S. and other in Canada and France and everywhere that we want to recruit and who wants to invest in our human resources. And the one who attend the last session, the previous sessions, I was thrilled by the number – they have one hundred and forty hospitals with the Ministry of Health, not to mention the military hospital, the National Guard hospital, the social hospital, and the university hospital. This is only the numbers of Ministry of Health. And as the number there is a cliff in the human resources and they need for 2020 eighty thousand physicians trained. So the challenge will come to all the culture bureau everywhere in the world to get more medical professionals and well-developed human resources, increase the number of medical facilities we have.



We also have a lot of universities as Dr. Assaf said, there is in the last seven years we start with nine universities as I know since long way ago, and in the last seven to ten years we have been expanding to more than twenty-seven government universities, not to say the private universities. And these are the facilities that we have, and we need more professionals – these are medical cities, hospitals, and colleges. In the seventy-seven years, the growth of the country’s reflecting by the number of the youth, the students, the colleges, and there’s more than five million students and the rate of illiteracy has been reduced a little bit, very high.

The goal of King Abdullah program, which is bringing all these youth to different countries all over the world to get knowledge, understanding the culture, development, experience, culturally mutual benefits, so it’s not only for training the human resource because we need them to be melted with different cultures. Our relationship in the medical partner is the strong profitable partnership because we have a need of human resources, well-trained human physicians, post-grad, nursing, paramedical allied sciences. We have qualified students, we have support. This support either financial support, social support, and Dr. Assaf has been mentioned all the support that Saudi Arabian Cultural Mission give to the students.

At the same time I find with our partner also with the global education, with the medical global education that they are benefit from the best educated, from the best practice, they get global mission that they are looking for, and they are getting more expertise, and this we can say is a free labor because they’re going through the labor, they’re going through their employee and their role of the hospital and university with paying nothing, costs them nothing, although they are getting also more benefits for the research funding and more. First questions I ask every hospital or university I went, do you remember any alumni of physicians or fellowship has been trained in your school? Most of the schools the answer is no. So what we are doing now is some sort of making a new page of history with the U.S. regarding the training of physicians and fellowships, and paramedical trainings.

And this not also will benefit our country, at the same time these alumni when you think about the economic, the health economy, and the global education, these trained doctors or physicians or nursing, they have been trained in a system, in a special IT system, special health policy system using different machinery, so any investor when they go there they will find that these candidates are capable to do or to run over their machinery.

Generally in our medical departments, we have – I start three years ago. I have only eight hundred students. And now I have four thousand students within the last three years. It’s make me more challenge, and we have as I said to bridge our students. Our students have certain – they are the best – we can say the cream of the cream because they are the medical graduate, they have been highly selective in their country, they graduated from the medical colleges, really prestigious and known recognizable by a lot of universities here. But they have certain lack of soft skills that we are working with all the university to get them into a match. The good news I want to share, and I was thrilled when the vice president of the ECMG, Electronic Certificate Medical Grad, foreign medical grad in 2012 … not yet, they didn’t give me the report yet, but Saudi Arabia is getting the highest number of ECMG certification that needs to be licensed to practice medicine in U.S.

If you see it by nation, our nation is twenty million regarding the age so we are the highest regarding the ratio. I give the call and they don’t know who’s running this program. Dr. Samar we want to congratulate you for these achievements. These are the total number of accepted students in the prestigious programs starting from fifty-seven in 2008 and now this year I announce two hundred thirteen physicians have been accepted, not telling you the dental, not telling you the nursing, or the physical therapist. Usually when we go through negotiations we have to make a MOU. And this MOU will give mutual benefit between SACM and the university or the hospital, because we have to be sure that the program director will select the best students, and will go through the same process that any American or foreigner grads will be go through the selection criteria. We look for their credential, we try to mentor our students, we give them all the support to get all the credential that the U.S. American need in their programs. And then we sign the agreement that if you find this selected student, the talented students with all your credential, they will be one part of your employee in your hospital, and usually they secure these positions.

This is a very well educated, prepared students and the SACM will pay for all the fringes and the salary of this training candidates. These are between 2011 and 2013, you can see the shift in the number from one hundred fifty-three to 2012, and this is the bulk of increasing in research, research fellow, or fellowship that means sub-specialty and residency. Before 2009, there is nothing called the research fellow because no one has been telling what are the skills that have been lacking from my applicants. The skill that we lack is the research methodology and the research skills. So we put them for one-year bridging program to get a U.S. recommendation to work with the U.S. to make like a long interview with the program directors and benefit from the research project in the institute.

This is the top ten specialties. I can say that not all the specialties, not all the training specialty that we can triangulate it because still the opthamology, orthopedic, neurosurgery, it’s very competitive, but we are working hard with the university to make maybe the bridging program more longer to get the students compatible, but we did it in a plastic surgery with the John Hopkins, and we signed the contract to get the first residence in plastic surgery training in John Hopkins. This is the top ten schools that usually we work with them. And when we start, we start usually at a lower scale. We start with one program pathology, anesthesia, surgery, one candidate. And by the years, almost four years, the number is tremendously increased because they trust us, they trust our students, our candidates, they train them, they know them, and now the acceptance rate is getting higher and higher.

How much we invest in our students? Besides all the benefit that Dr. Musaid has been said, put it outside. This is aside, and the number I am getting now is this is different, because these are the number of eighty million, the annual cost of medical residence. It’s not the dental, not the physical, not the nursing. It’s only the medical residence and fellowship. The annual budget for the department is eighty million dollars for all the universities and hospital. The average cost of medical students through his career average of four years is 700,000 dollars. Annual cost of the dental an average cost of fifty million dollars, the average cost or the budget in our departments.

Here we present when last year has been making our achievement from zero to three acceptance rate in the national residency programs. Last year we announced more than ninety students accepted through these programs and you get congratulation through the total from the NRP, which is the national rating residency program. It took from us a lot of negotiation, preparations, bridging programs, mutual understandings, a lot of visits. We usually host a lot of physicians coming to countries and also we make a conference call. I do more than one hundred trips all over U.S. to get this advantage and get this mutual benefits and the contract to get it.

The last thing that we share with our program directors, what is their feedback? We are working with them for more than three years. So what do you think about our students? What do you think about overall students performance? What do you think about, did you influence others to get the MOU with us? Did you ask other departments to advise them to get in contact with us and get more students, and as you said all of them they said very satisfied, and very satisfied, very likely to get any students and more students to their programs. And also we ask him do you think that our students need, do you recommend our students to go in sub-specialty in other programs in other hospitals. So everybody’s, we get most of them very likely or strongly agree with what we have.

In the future vision, there’s a lot of things to do. Higher education and especially medical, nobody can stop medical educations. It is the need for years and years. And it is the need for the nation, it is the need for our patient. These alumni, they will be advocate when they come to the hospital, when they come to the university, they are the Ambassador of Saudi Arabia, but when they go back, and this is what the deal we make, they get number one visa that means in the future there is no interfering with the workforce in the U.S., and they have to go back and they have to serve in their country. At the same time they will be alumni of the universities, and now when you go back and see this is the fellows from George Washington, this is from Taft, and this is from that. Now we are seeing this product coming on and going back. So these calibrations and trained physicians, also transfers of patients. Future consultations and transfer of patient, research calibrations will come in the future with these alumni. And I would like to announce that as you have Saudi business forum for years, we will start the U.S.-Saudi Medical Forum in 2014. We have partners, strong partners for many years, George Washington University. And we have leaders in my country graduated from George Washington and they will talk from their perspective – and these are examples of MOU we have been signed. So thank you for giving these opportunity, and anyone want to sign, I will sign with him in one week.

[Al-Shaalan] A job well done, thank you so much. As you have seen, George Washington is one of our top partners. I would like to welcome Dr. Jeffrey Akman, Vice President for Health Affairs and Dean, School of Medicine and Health Sciences, George Washington University.

[Dr. Jeffrey Akman] Salam aleikum, good afternoon. It’s wonderful to be here. I want to particularly thank Dr. Samar, Dr. [?], partners at SACM for inviting me and having us here. I also want to introduce Dr. Huda Ayas and Dennis Naranga also from George Washington University. Really, we’re thrilled to be here, and we’re particularly pleased to be able to talk about our partnership in helping develop the workforce, the medical workforce in Saudi Arabia. I also want to particularly acknowledge – I don’t know if they’re still in the room – a couple of our alumni from the Saudi-GW program, a couple of physicians, but I think they had to leave to go back to their practices. But it was great to see them here. One came from San Diego, one came from they’re still training. Anyway, it was great they showed up.

So George Washington University was founded in 1821. It was created by the Congress, an Act of Congress, and it really is right in the heart of the District of Columbia. And we have an internationally diverse population of undergraduate, graduate, and professional students from every state and from one hundred and thirty countries. The university recently completed a new strategic plan, and one of the four pillars of the strategic plan was globalization, so we hope to enhance that. A particular part of that strategic plan is the idea of developing a deep relationship with a particular country or countries, and I think that’s really what we’ve established through the school of medicine and health sciences and with Saudi Arabia, which I think is our most important partner, international partner in our school. The university offers comprehensive programs in a range of areas including liberal arts, medicine, public health, law, engineering, education, business, and international affairs, all of which have some relationship with the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia.



So, I mentioned its location, and its location in the heart of the District of Columbia. You see the bust of George Washington at the top of the screen, and sort of that yellowish part of the map is part of the campus, but you’ll see that the Saudi Embassy is literally just blocks away from the medical school and from the university. It is at most a five to ten minute walk, and something that is really important in terms of our relationship. The White House is just blocks away, and one of the reasons that’s relevant is that the patients that we see at George Washington University Medical Center have included residents of the White House. As you know Ronald Reagan after his assassination attempt was brought to GW, but the history is interesting because our physicians actually attended to Abraham Lincoln also, and attend to the leaders in the U.S. government from Dick Chaney, who has been very public about his heart condition and the care that he gets through GW, as well as members of Congress and the State Department. And the State Department is not on this map, but it is just below the cutoff so again, the location is terrific, not to mention our proximity to the World Bank. So our patients really do run the gamete of the leaders of the U.S. government as well as from around the world. And that’s I think really a very important part not only of our relationship with the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, but also in terms of what’s so critical about the training of the physicians and the medical students and the residents, we hopefully will prepare them to be a very culturally adept group of individuals.

A little bit about the School of Medicine and Health Sciences. It’s the eleventh oldest medical school in the United States. It was founded in 1825. State of the art facilities, world-renowned faculty, and our graduates are well-trained compassionate health care professionals. We’ve been creating physicians since 1825, and we are very proud not only of our medical MD program itself, but our residency programs. And we have extensive collaborations again based on our location with the National Institutes of Health, with many government, non-governmental, humanitarian organizations in Washington, D.C., as well as abroad, and our international medicine programs have very extensive partnerships in over seventy countries around the world.

Our history with Saudi Arabia is a twenty-year history. Yesterday someone mentioned about footsteps in the sand and our physicians and our staff have left many footsteps in the sand of Saudi Arabia. Our doctors have worked in the hospitals in Saudi Arabia and helped not only care for the citizens of the Kingdom as well as worked alongside of health care professionals in the Kingdom, and we as was talked about earlier, the alumni of the university are probably the most important product that we generate because it is our alumni that go out, take our skills, take the education, take the knowledge and then make a difference not only in their home country, but when it comes to medicine, in the lives of the citizens, of their fellow citizens back in their home country. So generating alumni is really a very important part of what we do.

Our first Saudi medical students came to GW in 1994, and we’ve now created or graduated twenty-one physician alumni from the MD program. The international residency program was created through our partnership with the Saudi Arabian Cultural Ministry, which you’ve heard about. This partnership was created in 2008 and it has been a very, very successful partnership for both GW as well as I believe for the Kingdom. So through our relationship we have created these programs, and Saudi individuals are in and have been part of all of these programs. We have an international MD program where we’ve graduated twenty-one physicians. We have international residencies and fellowships. We’ve graduated fourteen Saudi physicians from that and we currently have twenty-one in our residencies, in the international residency. And then also fellowships – we’ve graduated four from the fellowships and we have four currently. And then our international research fellowship where twenty-three have completed and we have eighteen currently. We have an international observership program. Again, this is to develop additional skills in a number of areas that we can talk about, shadowing physicians in D.C. We’ve really done extensive continuing medical education programs in the Kingdom and have had well over one thousand Saudi physicians participate in those programs. And as Dr. Samar said earlier, the whole notion of continuing education in the health professionals and in medicine is a life-long effort, and it is an important area for investment. We are developing medical student summer enrichment programs and undergraduate counseling, advisement, and preparation programs.

Some of the areas that we have – well these aren’t some – these are the areas that Saudis have been in GW residency programs. It’s pretty significant – cardiology, critical care medicine, emergency medicine, endocrinology, internal medicine, neurology, pathology, pediatrics, pulmonary and critical care, radiology, and surgery, and then you see where some of the departments where the research fellows are currently and have been in those departments.

So this is a valued partnership and without question mutually beneficial. I think what’s essential and what’s core is that it meets the needs; this program meets the needs of both partners. There’s a knowledge exchange, it certainly enhances cultural awareness. It provides Saudi medical school graduates with enhanced opportunities to obtain medical residencies in the United States, as Dr. Samar was saying. That’s becoming – it’s a challenge to begin with, it’s extremely competitive. First of all, getting into medical school is extremely competitive. GW medical school has this past year had over thirteen thousand applications for one hundred and eighty positions. So it’s incredibly competitive. The residency programs in the United States are extremely competitive and are getting more competitive, so our efforts are to make our Saudi trainees competitive along with their U.S. peers and get them into U.S. residency programs. We can talk more on what that requires, but currently I believe approximately fifteen or so percent of all Saudi residences in the United States are from GW, so we’re very pleased with that.

Again, we’re building a more diverse and highly trained Saudi medical workforce and strengthening the health care system in the Kingdom, but it’s also strengthening the health care system in the United States. As I was talking to one of the former residents, not only are we entrusting our Saudi trainees, the lives of U.S. citizens to our Saudi trainees, but also they’re training our medical students too, so when you think about where a Saudi resident is in the hierarchy, they’re not only being trained by U.S. docs or GW docs, but they’re also training GW medical students, so they have a very important place in the medical team and the education team, and so we are investing a great deal and getting a great deal in their presence in our program and in our school. And ultimately it fulfills our mission of improving the health and well being of local, national, and global communities.

These are our primary affiliates in terms of the Kingdom, and we’ve got agreements with all of these entities. And these are the number of Saudi-sponsoring institutions that we’ve had through the years. And all I can say is we’re looking forward to it growing; we’re looking forward to this list growing. This has been an extremely successful relationship for us, and we can talk again hopefully more about that. And ultimately what these programs are about are relationships and people, and this is one of our faculty members on the left, Dr. Troy, and this is one of our current fellows, Dr. Alzamati. And we’re generating, we’re hopefully generating GW alumni who will go back to Saudi Arabia, effect the lives of individuals in Saudi Arabia, make a difference on an individual basis but also across the Kingdom, one person at a time. Thank you.

[Al-Shaalan] Thank you, Dr. Akman. Now as we have seen the training and the graduates of the scholarship program and training in the medical field, we’ll shift gears to Dr. Al Qurashi from Dar al-Hekma College to talk about the role of higher education institutions in preparing an impeccable workforce in Saudi Arabia.

[Dr. Suhair H. Al Qurashi] Hello everyone, and because I’m last my heart fell with every person leaving the room, so I’m very thrilled that you’re all still here, thank you. And I’d like you to smile because smiling will make you feel better and happier, and the pain of going through my presentation will be less.

So, I’m not going to touch this – to start with, I’d like to shed light on the importance of higher education in Saudi Arabia and the particularity of higher education in Saudi Arabia. I would like to say first that there’s a critical relationship between a country’s higher education system and the future prosperity and integrity of the country. Therefore there is a pressing need in Saudi Arabia to build a new, advanced culture with deep appreciation of knowledge for its own sake as well as having a clear understanding of its practical applications in an increasingly developing competitive and technological global world. This entails a shift from resource-based economy to a knowledge-based economy, which we’re doing within our five year plan, the latest one, a restructuring of the direction and scope of higher education, and an adoption of a progressive educational philosophy that embraces diversity and recognizes traditional values. And at last a greater emphasis on business control as opposed to governmental controls of higher education.



Now, usually I like to move, I don’t like to actually stand, but I can’t even pull this, so I’m going to try and come as close to you as possible. I’m going to give you a flavor of higher education experience for female students in Saudi Arabia. We’re a young institution. It’s been founded in 1999, similar to our sister university, Effat University. And we’ve started with 80 students in 1999, and now we’ve grown in 2013 to one thousand five hundred students. And Dar al-Hekma is an equal access, equal opportunity institution, and within this presentation you’ll have a feel – it’s a pictorial presentation, there’s not much to say, the pictures will speak for the experience, and then there’s a very short movie of three minutes that will take you through the story of Dar al-Hekma and then the film is the experience from the perspective of a graduate.

So I’ve synthesized our mission with the college staff and faculty and the students to a sentence which says [arabic] which translates there’s no meaning for [arabic] in English, so we’ve just cut out that to graduate accomplished women, leaders, and entrepreneurs. Now, because we only graduate about two hundred and fifty students, two hundred forty a year, we need to be very specific about what these graduates need to have as a skillset. So, we’re a value-guided institution. This is very important for us and we take it very seriously, and I believe that we have to nurture the soul as much as we nurture the mind. And because we do that we get a holistic graduate at the end of the four years and the masters degree.

Our programs are based on four schools – the school of business, the school of education and applied sciences, the school of law and diplomacy, and the Hekma school for design and architecture, which is the biggest in the Kingdom and it is actually one of the top. We have developed a five-D program, which is a five dimensional program for the holistic experience and that is an extracurricular activity – I’m not going to talk about the academics, although our partners will speak for the academics. So we have the intellectual, the spiritual, the self-development, the social, the health and wellness. All students have to go through this experience before they graduate.

These are our international MOUs, and they’re linked to ever program within the college. So Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy teaches college Columbia, Babson which was the latest addition for the entrepreneurship center and the University of engineering, although we don’t have an engineering we’re working on it now. And Colorado Denver for the architecture, Thunderbird for our center entrepreneurship. Gatehouse Bank to also have opportunities for our graduates to have internships. We have the banking and finance. And they also Gatehouse to come and teach in our university in the MBA program. University Valenciennes we’re starting a nanotechnology program to start with and this is going to be the university we’re working with and other universities as well.

And because we want to graduate leaders students have to interact with leaders. So as much as we can we invite or we go to leaders around the world, and I pick the students that go with me depending on their ability to interact as well as their passion to do something later. So that’s part of positioning our students in the country. This is a visit that we did to the President of India, the former President of India, and it almost cost me my position. And our students were also here with the entrepreneurship summit with – and these are two of our students saying hello to President Obama. And that’s my son. And I took some students after the visit of PM David Cameron to the college in December last year. We visited him with some students, and he was very upset to see the number of U.S. partners on my list, and he said Suhair, how come you’re Cambridge graduate and you don’t have any British universities as partners. And I said well you know the Brits, they’re very stubborn when it comes to partnering. So he said come and I’ll facilitate. What do you want? Do you want London Business School? Do you want Oxford, Cambridge? I said no, I want the lot. So he facilitated twelve university visits for me and a visit to Downing Street.

Now that’s also a town hall meeting with Secretary Hillary Clinton, and this was a very welcomed visit by our students and you see her note to me. Anyways. They also have to listen to world leaders on subject’s presentation that was he launched his theory 3.0, the latest marketing theory of his theory, and it was on 10/10/10 at the college. And this is Anthony Hodgson, the inventor of the Hexagon Mapping Theory, which was also an addition to the college as he presented it.

They have to also undergo student community service international and in the country. This is Hekma-Harvard Women’s Build  in Jordan where they build two houses. This is a breast cancer campaign that one of our students helped organize with the owner of the campaign and certain activities. Our students are very active internationally and that’s also you can see our students to the left and right at a summer program at Harvard and an entrepreneurship forum at Babson College where they underwent from Babson and from LCF a year training on entrepreneurship and then they coupled it with three weeks at Babson. A combined project with Colorado University on affordable housing, and they presented both in Colorado and in Saudi.

And these are some of the international participation. Students went with me to a UN interfaith dialogue with the King and the parliament of world religion in Australia and we also went to South Africa. And this is our student alumni sitting next to Prince Turki al-Faisal in the World Economic Forum and that’s in my opinion. The first graduating class in 2003, and for a girl to make it to that conference sitting next to a world leader is a big deal. Thank you.

This is a model United Nations where the girls went to Harvard, they were invited by Harvard, and they got honorable mention and also they won the first prize at the pre Moot Court competition in Abu Dhabi on all the Arab states. They came first, and that was the first time Saudi Arabia actually goes to this conference or this competition. And they also went to Vienna where they didn’t win anything. These are some of the trips that I took the students around. Spain, Germany, Greece, Japan. And this is some of the work of the students, this is some of the entrepreneurship projects of the students that went, they started their own businesses, and they also recruited some of the alumni that have graduated from the college and from other colleges. And these are some of our alumni employment. And this should be interesting to you regarding training as well. This is also positioning our students around the world and within Saudi. This is the first graduating class in the presence of the King, and the first graduating class was in 2003 with sixteen students and now we’ve reached 1061 graduates in 11 years. That wasn’t painful was it?



Additional Information:

Logo SUSRIS 300