This NYTimes article describes the creation of the King Abdullah University of Science and Technology (KAUST), a $12.5B endowment from King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia. The prospects for creating a world class university there seem dim, even with significant financial resources -- would you leave your position in, e.g., Boston, for one at KAUST? Similar undertakings, such as KAIST in Korea, can depend on a deep pool of expatriate (Korean emigrants abroad) and local talent.
The article reveals that this particular clash of civilizations is very one-sided.
NYTimes: ...For the new institution, the king has cut his own education ministry out the loop, hiring the state-owned oil giant Saudi Aramco to build the campus, create its curriculum and attract foreigners.
Supporters of what is to be called the King Abdullah University of Science and Technology, or Kaust, wonder whether the king is simply building another gated island to be dominated by foreigners, like the compounds for oil industry workers that have existed here for decades, or creating an institution that will have a real impact on Saudi society and the rest of the Arab world.
“There are two Saudi Arabias,” said Jamal Khashoggi, the editor of Al Watan, a newspaper. “The question is which Saudi Arabia will take over.”
The king has broken taboos, declaring that the Arabs have fallen critically behind much of the modern world in intellectual achievement and that his country depends too much on oil and not enough on creating wealth through innovation.
“There is a deep knowledge gap separating the Arab and Islamic nations from the process and progress of contemporary global civilization,” said Abdallah S. Jumah, the chief executive of Saudi Aramco. “We are no longer keeping pace with the advances of our era.”