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Dr. Abdullah Al-Rubaish

SAUDI ARABIA - Health & Education

Ahead of its time

Rector, Imam Abdulrahman bin Faisal University (IAU)


Dr. Abdullah Al-Rubaish was appointed vice president of KFU in 2007 and president in 2010. He combined his executive experience from serving in various deanships at KFU with academic practices to become associate professor of medicine and work as a medical consultant at the Department of Internal Medicine. He graduated from KFU’s College of Medicine and completed his medical internship at KFHU, where he also pursued a fellowship program. He became a member of the UK Royal College of Physicians and the Arab Board after he completed his sub-subspecialty in Pulmonary Medicine at the University of Alberta, Canada.

“70% of our faculty members are female, so women are well represented in our boards and administration.“

Where do you position IAU within the higher education landscape of Saudi Arabia?
IAU was established as a separate university in 2009 and was previously a campus of KFU. IAU has four major clusters of interest: health sciences, engineering and technology, computer and business administration, and humanities. Health sciences and architecture are two of our main specializations. Under each of these clusters is a number of colleges, so the cluster of health sciences, for example, has eight colleges. Under each college are several programs, some of which are unique in the sense that no other university in Saudi Arabia offers them. Our college of applied medical sciences offers a specialization in cardiac technology, and ours is the only department that graduates Saudi female students specialized in this area. We are also the only Saudi university where female students specialize in neuroscience.

What is your vision of the computer sciences cluster, and how are you preparing graduates for the jobs of the future?
In general, transformation is a must for all higher education systems. In Saudi Arabia, universities are the primary need. This is not only because of globalization, but also because of the advancements in communication and technology, the big drivers of change. With Vision 2030, the current leadership aims to diversify the Saudi economy, and the completion of all the strategic objectives under Vision 2030 depend an intellectual human capital. This means changes have to take place across all domains of universities, such as academic, research, community service, and innovation and entrepreneurship. Equally important, changes have to be made across all components of the education system, such as admission, accessibility, teaching strategies, the curriculum, and assessment and evaluation. We are living in the digital revolution and are coming ever so close to the fourth industrial revolution. AI, IT, machine learning, and other changes will reshape the future of the workforce. Therefore, we need graduates capable of facing future challenges. One of the issues university graduates face is lifelong learning because in the future, a worker may change jobs three or four times throughout their career. We need to keep this in consideration moving forward.

Do your enrolment figures reflect the trend of high female enrolment across the country?
Our university is rather unique, as 70% of our students are female. In the past, female education was under a different unit but we took the decision to merge male and female higher education. Some universities looked at this as a burden, though we realized it was a positive push for us. Throughout our history, we have had many capable and committed Saudi female faculty members, and some of our achievements in terms of international accreditation are due to their hard work. Also, 70% of our faculty members are female, so women are well represented in our boards and administration. We have female deans and vice deans and a female vice rector. They share all decision-making and strategic planning duties; women are integral members of our community.

What are your strategic priorities for the future?
The total number of students in the university is currently around 35,000. Health sciences constitutes a large part of the structure of the university and we currently seek to complete a new hospital that we plan to operate soon. This will be a part of a biomedical valley in the future which will include the hospital, a research center, a family community center, and pharmaceutical and biomedical engineering companies. We have almost 850,000sqm of land where the new hospital is being built, and we will turn this land into a medical city in the future. Already, we have finished the hospital, research center, and building for community medicine, and at present, we are constructing the neuroscience building. Next, we will build a biomedical park where we can perform and apply research in collaboration with companies.



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