On Wednesday the conservative country unveiled its first ever fully coed university, the King Abdullah Science and Technology University (KAUST). In the past, women in the notoriously gender restrictive kingdom were only allowed to take classes separately from men.
The inauguration of KAUST is meant to signal two important developments: a lauded, if politically volatile, softening of hard-line rules, and the kingdom’s rising ambitions of being a hub of scientific learning. Both aims, Saudi Arabia’s rulers hope, will help blunt the impact of extremism.
The university's financial backing will allow all the students to receive full scholarships covering their tuition plus a stipend.
Naimi said environmental research will be a priority at the university where more than 70 international faculty are on board. In a bid to recruit distinguished researchers, KAUST has tossed generous salary packages to prospective hires from around the world.
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