Khaled Almaeena
Khaled Almaeena

A university education is a ticket for a job in Saudi Arabia remarked a friend.

You are wrong said another. I have seen many graduates who are not employable because they don’t possess the social skills nor do they have the relevant knowledge needed for modern-day business and industry.

But we have sent over 100,000 Saudi students abroad and we hope that they will come back with the required qualities needed for our development.

There are an  estimated 4.5 million international students spread across the globe. Elite universities like Oxford, Cambridge and Exeter in the UK and Ivy League universities like Harvard, Princeton and Yale in the US lead in attracting bright minds.

In other countries, such as Australia, there is a great rush to gain admission to universities that best suit academic requirements. Japan and Malaysia are also becoming attractive places for foreign students.

Hong Kong and Singapore have become educational capitals. They both now have five of the world’s top 50 universities and half of Asia’s top 10. I wonder where we stand in this respect.

With the goal of achieving diversity in their student population, a number of American universities offer scholarships to deserving international students.

“Universities no longer operate in isolation,” said Abid Khan, Deputy Vice Chancellor and Vice President (Global Engagement) at Monash University in Australia. He added that the world faces challenges and no single place has all the answers.

Speaking to the China Daily Asia weekly, he said, “If you bring people together, you stand a chance of meeting some of the challenges – such as climate change, for example.”

This is what education is all about; exposure to different cultures adds invaluable experience and by bringing minds together it helps resolve common issues. It helps raise the bar as a free flow of educational levels between local people and others leads to a partnership, adds variety and creates competition.

In the light of all this, I still wonder why our universities do not allow foreign students to come and study here.

The authorities can set the ball rolling by allowing the children of expatriates who are here to take advantage of higher education in the Kingdom.

A report by the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development and the World Bank said that cross-border education adds “variety and choice to domestic systems which leads to healthy competition and quality enhancement”. That is what Saudi education needs.

Is that asking for too much?

— Reprinted with permission of the Saudi Gazette and Khaled Almaeena. The writer is Editor-at-Large. He can be reached at and followed on Twitter: @KhaledAlmaeena