Honorary doctorate for King Salman ‘will lead to more cooperation’ on education

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Updated 08 October 2017
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Honorary doctorate for King Salman ‘will lead to more cooperation’ on education

MOSCOW: The award of an honorary degree to King Salman by Russia’s most prestigious university will lead to further cooperation between Saudi Arabia and Russia in the education field, a leading professor told Arab News.

“Before the king’s visit to the university, our rector and minister of education and science had talks with Saudi ministers, their deputies and members of the delegation,” said Vladimir Morozov, an associate professor and vice-rector of human resources at the Moscow State Institute of International Relations (MGIMO).

“They emphasized several times that cooperation in the education sphere is a very important element of bilateral relations,” said Professor Morozov, who organized the award ceremony on Saturday.

“Saudis told us that King Salman is a well-read person. So I believe that besides politics and the economy, Russia and Saudi Arabia should develop humanitarian cooperation in many directions, in education in particular.

“This is an element of public diplomacy; there is a special field — academic diplomacy –– in which our university takes an active part. Currently we do not have many agreements with Saudi Arabia, but we hope that this visit will provide an impetus to develop ties in education.

“We are looking forward to the visit of our Saudi colleagues to MGIMO. Professors of both countries will exchange visits and read lectures for the students. We would like to develop student exchange as well, because we never had such programs with Saudi Arabia. We now cooperate with universities in France, Britain, Germany, the US, China and South Korea. Every year hundreds of students study in other countries. So we would like to work with Saudi Arabia in this direction and sign cooperation agreements with more Saudi universities.”

Morozov said relations between Saudi Arabia and Russia were developing rapidly. “Just the very fact that this visit at the highest level took place demonstrates very good relations between the countries,” he said.

“This was a historic visit, and it shows that relations between our countries are very warm and trustworthy. The sheer number of documents prepared during the past seven months and signed in the presence of King Salman and President Putin reflects very deep contacts between our countries.

“We are sure that these contacts are not just a momentary trend, but have a big future. And we hope that Russia and Saudi Arabia will together discuss the issues of Middle Eastern security, the Syrian crisis in particular, and establish cooperation in this domain.”

There is considerable interest in the Middle East at MGIMO, the professor said. “A center of Arabic language was opened in 2009. We have a specialized Arabic classroom and a top-level school of Arabic studies, which was established back in the USSR. We have a lot of students who study Arabic, because there are many Arabic-speaking countries and the demand on the specialists is high.”

The professor also had advice for Saudi students on which courses they should choose. “The issue of energy efficiency and the ways to get rid of oil export dependence are pertinent not only in Saudi Arabia and Russia, but for many other countries as well,” he said. “Specialists in the energy sector are needed to resolve these issues.

“Because this sector is not limited to oil and gas, it includes economic international ties, engineering, alternative sources of energy. Many countries already produce 5-10 or even up to 20 percent of total electric power using these sources. And this is a worldwide trend. Our country will have to engage in such programs and cooperate with Saudis on developing energy saving technologies, finding alternative sources of energy and increasing their efficiency.

“I do not think that Saudi Arabia needs any revolutionary changes in the system of education; everybody still needs economists and lawyers. The energy sector, no matter whether it is about nuclear, hydro, sun or oil energy, will always need international relations specialists, economists, lawyers and, of course, engineers. Every country and university should decide itself which specialists they need more.”

Mora than 800 people attended Saturday’s honorary degree award ceremony, the professor said, 600 of them students, mainly those who study Arabic or the Middle East in general.

The king was greeted by Russia’s minister of education and science, Olga Vasilyeva, and the rector of the university, Anatoly Torkunov. They chatted for a few minutes, before King Salman was awarded his honorary degree and invited to give a short speech.

“The whole event took about 20 minutes,” Prof Morozov said. “After his speech the King received thunderous applause and greeted the audience by waving his hand.”


Saudi businesswomen eye greater role in the economy with end to driving ban

The end of the driving ban is expected to help bring an economic windfall for Saudi women. (Shutterstock)
Updated 23 June 2018
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Saudi businesswomen eye greater role in the economy with end to driving ban

  • The historic move is a huge step forward for businesswomen in the Saudi Arabia, says businesswoman
  • A recent survey by the Jeddah Chamber of Commerce indicated that transportation was a major concern holding Saudi women back from joining the labor market

The end of the driving ban will boost women’s financial power and allow them to play a bigger role in economic and social diversification in line with Vision 2030, prominent businesswomen said on Friday.

Hind Khalid Al-Zahid was the first Saudi woman designated as an executive director — for Dammam Airport Company — and also heads the Businesswomen Center at the Eastern Province Chamber of Commerce and Industry. 

She sees the historic move as a huge step forward for businesswomen in the Kingdom.

“Women being allowed to drive is very important; of course this will help a lot in sustainable development as the lifting of the ban on women driving came as a wonderful opportunity to increase women’s participation in the workforce,” she told Arab News on Friday, ahead of the end of the ban on Sunday.

She added that women in the job market are under-represented; they make up to 22 percent of the national workforce of about six million according to official estimates. Lifting the ban will help to take women’s representation in the workforce to 30 percent by 2030, she said.

“This is not just the right thing to do for women’s emancipation, but also an essential step in economic and social development as part of the reforms,” she said.

She said that there were different obstacles in increasing women’s participation in the workforce and other productive activities, and the driving ban was one of them. It was a strategic issue that needed to be addressed on a priority basis. With the issue resolved, it would help immensely in giving Saudi women better representation as they would help to diversify the Saudi economy and society.

She said that women could contribute hugely to the workforce and labor market as half of Saudi human resources were female, and unless allowed to excel in different sectors it would not be possible to do better, mainly because of restricted mobility.

A recent survey by the Jeddah Chamber of Commerce indicated that transportation was a major concern holding Saudi women back from joining the labor market.

Nouf Ibrahim, a businesswoman in Riyadh, said: “It will surely boost female economic participation and help increase women’s representation in the workforce immensely. It will also help to reduce the overall national unemployment rate as most of the unemployed are women and many of them are eligible as university graduates.”

She echoed the opinion that the move would help to bring an economic windfall for Saudi women, making it easier for them to work and do business, and thus play a bigger and better role that would help economic and social diversification in line with Saudi Vision 2030.

“Being able to drive from Sunday onwards after the ban is lifted will be a wonderful experience. Earlier we were dependent on a male family member and house driver to take us to workplace, to the shopping center, school or other required places for some work, now we can drive and that will allow active participation in productive work,” Sulafa Hakami, a Saudi woman working as the digital communication manager with an American MNC in Riyadh, told Arab News.

“Saudi women can now share effectively the bigger and better responsibilities,” she said.