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March 24, 2008 | by  | in News |
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Waikato University in multi-million dollar Saudi deal

Interview material with Professor Roy Crawford appears courtesy of the New Zealand Herald.

A University of Waikato deal with Saudi Arabia could be worth millions of dollars and involve building a new Saudi university.

A delegation of at least seven senior University staff, led by Deputy Vice-Chancellor Doug Sutton, is to visit the desert kingdom this month, and will be hosted by King Abdullah ben Abdullaziz Al Saud’s family in the Ha’il region.

“[Waikato University is] looking at a partnership to build a university,” said Professor Janis Swan of the deal.

Vice-chancellor Roy Crawford told the New Zealand Herald that “a new university was planned and the country is looking for international help to do so.”

Waikato had been invited along with other institutions such as prestigious American universities like Cornell, Berkeley and Stanford as potential partners in the set up, he said.

The University will sell intellectual property it owns, detailing how to build an institution. Professor Crawford told the Herald it had the potential to be a multi-million dollar deal.

“Oh yes. You’d be talking about large sums. Certainly at the moment commercially the Saudis are prepared to invest in order to achieve what they want to achieve.”

The possibility of University involvement in Saudi Arabia was announced at the last meeting of the Academic Board.

A previous University delegation visited Saudi Arabia last year to “meet one of the princes.” Other visits have been made to Kazkhstan and St Petersburg in Russia.

Matters discussed apparently included “preliminary discussions” of establishing conjoint operations with a new Saudi university.

Waikato University has been steadily building a relationship with the Gulf state, recently hosting royal emissary Abdul Kareem for eight weeks.

Other New Zealand universities are involved in Saudi Arabia, with Otago University sending delegates on a 2002 trip.

The oil-rich state of Saudi Arabia is a monarchy ruled by King Abdullah of the House of Saud. It has a troubled human rights record, and has been criticized by organisations like Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch and the United Nations over its judicial system (which, infamously, utilises beheadings and amputations) and unequal treatment of women.

There are roughly 300 Saudi students attending the University of Waikato, out of a total of around 2000 in New Zealand. 80 of the Saudi students at Waikato are here courtesy of King Abdullah’s scholarship programme, with another 180 studying under different schemes. The king personally funds approximately 25, 000 Saudi students around the world.

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