It has been designed as a centre of excellence to encourage greater interest in the sciences and will offer a range of studies including micro-technology, nano-technology, water conservation, biotechnology and IT.
Professor Choon Fong Shih, a world renowned engineer, has been appointed the first president of KAUST, which will have one of the biggest endowments of any university research institution in the world and is designed to forge connections with top researchers around the globe. Seven collaborative agreements have already been signed with foreign academic institutions.
Khaled Abdul Aziz Al-Faleh, VP for industrial affairs at Saudi Aramco, which has managed the university project says the aim at KAUST is to produce future pioneers in science and technology and promote the Kingdom's research and technological capabilities.
Centre of excellence
While creating a centre of excellence, the ambitious move also reflects the nation's broader efforts to develop human resources to cope with the needs of diversified economic growth.
There is an urgent need to expand the skills base since the Kingdom's educational structure has up to now not kept pace with economic demands. Many jobs are held by expatriates with the result that there is a high level of unemployment of around 11 per cent among young Saudis.
Traditionally the government has provided jobs but bureaucracy is being steadily overhauled with the result that state jobs are likely to become fewer as the private sector increasingly becomes the main driver of economic activity in Saudi Arabia.
Even when Saudi Arabia's new economic cities are completed 80 per cent of employees are likely to be foreigners, though the long term plan is to reduce this number to just 30 per cent says Fahd Al-Rashed deputy governor of Saudi Arabia General Investment Authority.
In a recent study, the Swiss-based World Economic Forum stated: "Ensuring that highly qualified Saudi workers with relevant skill sets are available in an innovative economy is crucial to the country, in reducing national unemployment and the economy's current reliance on foreign labour."
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