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Einas S. Al-Eisa

Rector, Princess Nourah bint Abdulrahman University (PNU)

Haifa Jamal Al-Lail

President, Effat University

Effat University and PNU University are striving to provide women the skills they need to enter a modern workforce, from the liberal arts and Islamic history, and can learn the rules of the road, literally and figuratively.

Can you tell us a bit about what your school, its mission, and its history?
EINAS S. AL-EISA PNU is a new university but it has a long history and a rich heritage. PNU used to be a group of women’s colleges established in 1970 that focused on preparing teachers. Then, in 2006, it was converted to a comprehensive university for women by royal decree. We are in this fortunate and unique position of being both old, with traditions deeply rooted in teaching and learning, and also a modern institution with a progressive outlook and an agility that usually accompanies newer institutions of higher education. This transformation was not an easy undertaking; however, the faculty of PNU rose to the challenge and in a few years transformed the institution from a scattered group of teachers’ colleges to a modern institute of higher education that focuses primarily on the empowerment of women and social service. The faculty of PNU comprises a group of highly educated women with a deep sense of duty to their community and culture. They are committed to empowering our young graduates to contribute to realizing Vision 2030 in all of its aspects.

HAIFA JAMAL AL-LAIL Our founder, Queen Effat, was the first to bring girls education to the Kingdom. In 1955, she established the first ever school, Dar al Hanan. The example it provided, and her constant efforts, resulted in the spread of quality education in Saudi Arabia. As soon as legislation was passed permitting private non-profit higher education, she immediately applied and Effat was granted License #1 and opened its doors in 1999. From this early beginning, we have grown from a small college offering 2 majors, to a fully-fledged university with 4 colleges offering a range of majors at both undergraduate and master’s level. Her children, particularly HRH Princess Loulwah al Faisal, carry on Queen Effat’s legacy. After looking at a variety of educational models, it was decided to base the education on the traditions of the liberal arts colleges in the US, which have proved so successful in teaching not simply subject expertise, but also creating leaders and innovators, global citizens equipped with critical thinking skills, analytical mind-sets, and excellent communication skills. At the same time, we are careful to instill awareness and pride in our cherished cultural heritage and our Islamic values and ethics. So we keep hold of our values while embracing the future. Our motto is “Aspire to Achieve.” This is what we want our students to do!

How does your organization affect Saudi society?
ESAE PNU is a unique university with a unique role to play, and the empowerment of women is at the heart of this role. PNU does not empower women just by educating them and preparing them for the workplace. It has, over the years, initiated many projects that were designed to support women in every respect. One such initiative is the Center for Promising Research in Social and Women’s Studies, which focuses on conducting and supporting research and studies that are related specifically to women and society. Another initiative is the establishment of the Center of Excellence for Women’s Health. This medical center performs scientific studies related to women’s health in particular. It is dedicated to the promotion of the general health of society. Another women-centered initiative outside academia is the Saudi Driving School. Immediately after the issue of the royal decree allowing women to drive in 2017, PNU took the lead in establishing the first women’s driving school in the country. It has trained over 25,000 women so far.

HJAL “Educate a girl, and you educate a generation” is not just an empty slogan. We believe that by empowering Saudi Arabia’s females through a robust education is the best way to push the development of the Kingdom. Since our inception, we have constantly striven to open up new pathways for professional women. We were the first university to offer many majors to females. For example, in 2004 we started the first engineering program for women, rapidly followed by the first school of architecture, and then entrepreneurship. We opened a program for Digital and Visual Production, which is essentially a school of cinematic arts, in 2011, well before the first cinemas opened. Initially, we faced a lot of resistance from society, but we persevered. Today, many other universities and colleges offer these kinds of innovative programs, and it is more and more common to see women working in all sectors. Without an appropriate education, women cannot take their rightful, and deserved, place in developing the economy of the Kingdom.



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