RIYADH: In a historic announcement, the King Fahd University of Petroleum and Minerals (KFUPM) in Dhahran announced on Tuesday that it would start admitting female students for the first time in the 2021/2022 academic year.
The university, established in 1963 by a royal decree as the College of Petroleum and Minerals, is widely renowned for its strong science, engineering, business, and management programs. KFUPM is ranked fourth in the top 100 worldwide universities granted US Utility Patents in 2018.
However, until now, the university was exclusively open to male students, making the announcement a cause of celebration for Saudi female students seeking admission to its elite programs.
Energy Minister Prince Abdul Aziz bin Salman, who is also chairman of the university’s board of trustees and a graduate of KFUPM, issued a statement on the announcement in which he expressed thanks to King Salman and Crown Prince Muhammad bin Salman for their support of the decision, saying that it would strengthen the educational sector in general, and university education in particular.
It would be thrilling to be one of the first female students at such a prestigious university.
“This decision will constantly push the university to pursue distinguished achievements and take steps to contribute to the development of the competencies and capabilities of the nation’s sons and daughters, contributing to the building of a bright and promising future for our country,” he said.
The minister also highlighted that the decision comes at a time when the Kingdom is celebrating the fifth anniversary of its Vision 2030, calling it “an important step” towards achieving a number of the vision goals, particularly those which seek to empower women.
The university aims in the coming year for female students to make up 20 percent of new students, based on the available capacity, and hopes to raise that number to 40 percent in the following year. After that, admission will continue based purely on “competence and ability.”
Sarah Al-Shammari, a resident of Riyadh, is hoping to secure one of those coveted first spots. She told Arab News that she could think of nothing more exciting than to be one of the university’s first female students.
“KFUPM is famous for its programs, and its reputation speaks for itself. It would be thrilling to be one of the first female students at such a prestigious university, and I intend to apply as soon as I can,” she said.
Noha Altuwaijri, another hopeful student, said that she had always secretly hoped for the chance to enroll in the university, as her father is a proud alumnus.
“My dad went to KFUPM, and he always spoke very positively about the experience. It would be so amazing to be able to make him proud by going to the same school, and to follow in his footsteps. I think it would mean so much to both of us,” she said.
The decision was also welcomed by some of the university’s current students and graduates, who took to Twitter to congratulate future female students and offer them advice on how to cope with the university lifestyle.
“I found it rough to live away from my family, in the university’s dorms,” said Hamza Taibah, a recent graduate of KFUPM. “Not to mention the overload of work, and the overall competitiveness of the college. But my experience molded me into a much stronger person, much more disciplined. Although I think they can pull it off, I’m
really interested to see how this will play out.”
Ahmad Jameel, a marketing student at KFUPM, is working on a series of YouTube videos related to the university that he hopes will help female students learn more about the school and its environment.
I have always secretly hoped for the chance to enroll in the university, as my father is a proud alumnus.
“We were all happy to hear about the decision to allow female students to enroll at the university,” he said. “My advice to the girls wanting to apply is to take the opportunity to join the university for the huge opportunities it will provide to them. My best wishes to them all.”
The university also announced the launch of 32 new master’s degree programs in a range of subspecialties that “keep pace with the transformation of the national economy into a diversified, digital and knowledge-based economy.”
The new master’s degrees will be offered in the fields of: Artificial Intelligence, Cybersecurity and Blockchain Software, Autonomous Robotics, Data Science, Quantum Computing, Computational Analytics, Materials Science and Engineering, Petrochemical Engineering, Polymer Science and Engineering, Industrial Catalysis, Computational Materials and Modeling, Wireless Communication Networks, Sustainable and Renewable Energy, Engineering Vitality, and Supply Chain Management.