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Citizenship for top foreign academics planned

The Ministry of Higher Education may offer Saudi citizenship as an incentive to attract top foreign scholars and lecturers to the Kingdom’s universities, said the ministry’s Undersecretary for Educational Affairs Muhammad bin Abdulaziz Al-Ouhali. The offer is one of the incentives the ministry is considering, said Al-Ouhali, who was speaking at the seventh periodic meeting of Saudi universities’ undersecretaries for educational affairs at Taif University.
Under the proposal, foreigners will also get allowances for their children, he added. He said it was an international academic tradition to have diverse expertise that can improve services.
Lawyer and King Abdul Aziz University professor Omar Al-Khuli said universities have a “clear shortage” of faculty members and need to recruit professors from abroad, but these people have to be outstanding and highly qualified. Al-Khuli suggested raising the retirement age from 60 to 65 to help meet the need for academics.
Professor Farouq Al-Khateeb of King Abdul Aziz University’s Economics Department opposes the idea. He said there are enough Saudi academics and that hundreds of thousands of Saudi students studying on scholarships abroad can be recruited.
Al-Khateeb called on the ministry to find out the needs of Saudi academics before considering incentives to attract foreigners. He said the Saudi academic system has not been improved for the last 40 years and urged government to provide more incentives for Saudi teachers and their children.
Professor Alaa Al-Ghamdi of Taibah University agreed that a university must have both local and foreign expertise. However, he believes that attractive research opportunities should be considered as incentives, not granting citizenship.
He described the financial remuneration of Saudi assistant professors as “miserable” relative to the salaries and allowances of their counterparts in other Gulf States.

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