Launch of 2019 Study UK Alumni Awards highlights key role of Saudi students

British Consul General HM Barrie Peach, far left, said the UK and Saudi Arabia enjoy a very strong relationship. (AN photo by Huda Bashatah)
Updated 12 September 2018

Launch of 2019 Study UK Alumni Awards highlights key role of Saudi students

  • Saudi students a bridge for our two nations: British consul general

JEDDAH: Saudi students who study at UK universities create one of the strongest bonds between the two countries, according to British Consul General HM Barrie Peach.

Speaking exclusively to Arab News at the launch of the 2019 UK Study Alumni Awards, which he hosted at the British Consulate in Jeddah on Tuesday evening, he said: “I am delighted to welcome so many graduates from British universities to the consulate this evening.

“The UK and Saudi Arabia enjoy a very strong relationship but one of the strongest bonds that exists between our two nations is that which is created by the Saudi students who have studied at British universities. They really are a bridge for our two nations. So, over the past few years, we have sought to build networking events so that we can utilize those relationships and friendships for our mutual benefit. In doing so, we established the annual Study UK Alumni Awards.”

The awards, which are staged globally, recognize outstanding achievements by international alumni of British universities, as well as the reputations of their alma maters, to honor and celebrate the rewards and influence that can result from higher education in the UK. The 2019 Saudi event, the fourth edition in the Kingdom, is organized by the British Council and the British Embassy in Saudi Arabia. Nearly 10,000 Saudis return to the Kingdom each year after studying in the UK.

Dr. Talal A. Almaghrabi, chairman of Saudi British Marketing and Management Association, founder of MarCom Academy and winner of the entrepreneurial award 2017. (AN photo by Huda Bashatah)

The nominees are leaders in their fields who have built on their experience of studying in the UK to have a positive effect on the world and in their communities. There is an emphasis on honoring those who develop and implement creative solutions and business opportunities with the potential for strong growth, and those with a commitment to generating positive social change and improving the lives of others. This is reflected in the three award categories: professional achievement, entrepreneurial, and social impact.

“These categories really highlight the breadth of subjects that Saudi students have studied in the UK.” said Peach.

The professional achievement category honors alumni who distinguish themselves through exemplary leadership in their industries. Prof. Turki Althubaiti was the recipient of the award this year. After earning a master’s degree and a doctorate in English literature from the University of Essex, he returned to Saudi Arabia and became a professor at Taif University, as well as establishing many educational and social outreach programs.

The 2018 entrepreneurial aware went to Dr. Abdallah Adlan, an alumni of the University of Birmingham and the University of Bradford, where he received doctorates in biomedical science and bioethics/medical ethics. He is now the head of biomedical ethics at King Abdullah International Medical Research Centre.

This year’s social impact award recipient was Dr. Nouf Alnumair, a Saudi scientist who earned  a master’s degree and doctorate from University College London, where she specialized in molecular genetics and bioinformatics – one of the first Saudis to do so. She is now continuing her research in these fields at King Faisal Specialist Hospital and Research Center. Other projects she is involved with include a study of hereditary bleeding disorders, in which she is a principle investigator. In addition, she is an assistant professor at Alfaisal University College of Medicine in Riyadh, where she helps to inspire a new generation of Saudi scientists.

The Study UK Alumni Awards are open to anyone living outside the UK who with the past 15 years graduated from an officially accredited UK college or university, or was awarded a full UK degree-level qualification equivalent (or higher), by a UK university through a local institution overseas. 

The finalists for the 2019 awards will be announced in January and the winners honored at a gala event in Riyadh in March. Candidates can apply themselves or be nominated by their institutions. The application process opened on September 11 and the deadlines are October 28 for institutions, November 11 for individuals.

Shoura Council: We are the ears of Saudi society

Updated 19 November 2018

Shoura Council: We are the ears of Saudi society

  • The Shoura Council that the King is addressing today has a vital role to play in government
  • Female Shoura Council members have played a major role in raising their voices over many issues concerning social development in Saudi Arabia

JEDDAH: When King Salman gives his annual speech that will open the third year of the Shoura Council’s seventh session today, it will set the tone for what lies ahead for the Kingdom, laying the groundwork for the consultative assembly to help to move the country forward.
“The King’s speech in the Shoura Council lays the road map to achieving Vision 2030,” said Lina Almaeena, one of its 30 female members. Women make up of 20 percent of the council, the same percentage of women who now hold seats in the US Congress.
While only midway through its seventh session, the roots of the Shoura Council date back to before Saudi Arabia’s founding. After entering the city of Makkah in 1924, King Abdul Aziz Al-Saud entrusted the council with drafting the basic laws for the administration of what was to become the future unified Kingdom.
In 1928, amendments were made as public interest grew. A new law consisting of 24 articles, which included the permanent appointment of a vice-president by the King, was issued to facilitate the council’s work.
In 1953, the council’s jurisdictions were distributed between the Council of Ministers and other government entities, reducing the Shoura Council’s power, although it continued to hold sessions until its mandate was once again broadened this century.
Its current format consists of a Speaker and 150 council members, among them scholars, educators, specialists and prominent members of society with expertise in their respective fields, chosen by the King and serving a four-year term.
The council convenes its sessions in the capital of Riyadh, as well as in other locations in the Kingdom as the King deems appropriate. Known as Majlis Al-Shoura inside the Kingdom, its basic function is to draft and issue laws approved by the King, as the cabinet cannot pass or enforce laws, a power reserved for the King to this day.
The Shoura can be defined as an exchange of opinions, and so another of its functions is to express views on matters of public interest and investigate these issues with people of authority and expertise, hence the 14 specialized committees that cover several aspects of social and governmental entities. From education, to foreign affairs, members assigned to committees review proposed draft laws prior to submitting them to the King, as they are able to exercise power within its jurisdiction and seek expertise from non-Majlis members. All requested documents and data in possession of government ministries and agencies must go through a request process from the Speaker to facilitate the Shoura Council committees’ work.
Female members are a fairly recent phenomenon. In September 2011, the late King Abdullah stated that women would become members of the council. In 2013, two royal decrees reconstituted the council, mandating that women should always hold at least a fifth of its 150 seats and appointed the first group of 30 female Shoura members.
Five years on, female Shoura Council members have played a major role in raising their voices over many issues concerning social development in Saudi Arabia. “It’s a golden age for Saudis and, as women, we’ve come a long way,” said Almaeena. “We’re living an era of historical change, and we’re making up for lost time.”
As part of their roles, members of the council have the right to discuss general plans for economic and social development, particularly now with the Vision 2030 blueprint. Annual reports forwarded by ministries and governmental institutes, international treaties and concessions are also within the council members’ remit, to discuss and make suggestions that are deemed appropriate.
“Many positive changes have taken place in the past few years, and the Shoura Council’s role has always put social developments first and foremost,” said Dr. Sami Zaidan, a council member of two terms. “The appointment of women diversified and expanded the discussions and has added value.”
Major achievements were chalked up in this term’s second year. Many of the draft proposals discussed received approval votes. On Nov. 8, a proposal with 39 articles to protect informants from attacks, threats and material harm was approved by the majority of the council. The draft law, suggested by the Ministry of Interior and the Ministry of Economy and Planning, would provide whistle-blowers with protection.
In May, the Shoura Council also approved legislation criminalizing sexual harassment in the Kingdom. The Cabinet, chaired by King Salman, backed the legislation, which required a royal decree to become law. Under it, perpetrators may face a jail sentence of up to five years and a SR 300,000 fine.
Draft regulations must go through a two-step process. The first, a chairman of a committee reads a draft of a proposal on the floor, and council members vote on referring the proposal to the designated committee. If members agree to the referral, each article is discussed thoroughly, studies are conducted on the aspects of the proposal, and after completing all the necessary checks, it reaches the second stage. The council then discusses the committee’s recommendations and a vote is set for each article proposed in an earlier session by the committee’s chairman.
Other proposals on the discussion table for this session include one that recognizes the importance of voluntary work in the community, in compliance with Vision 2030, which talks about one million volunteers in the Kingdom by 2030. The council has also asked the General Sports Authority to speed up the development of sports cities and to diversify its functions in different parts of the Kingdom to help the organizational level of women’s sports become an independent agency affiliated to the GSA chairman.
The council has also discussed a recommendation for women to hold leadership positions in Saudi Arabia’s diplomatic missions abroad, from a report by the council’s Foreign Affairs Committee. With approximately 130 women working at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the report recommended the necessity of an appointment as an affirmation that Saudi women are able to take over leadership positions as ministers, ambassadors and Saudi representatives in international forums.
Almaeena pointed out that Shoura Council members are the ears of society, playing an important role in relaying the public’s message to the designated committees. “The Shoura Council’s doors are always open, although not many know this,” she said. “The public is always welcome and can attend sessions, scheduling ahead of time. The doors to the council have always been and will always be open to all.”