By Shams Ahsan
SAUDI female students prefer humanities and social sciences: A misbelief.
Saudi women are only employed in sectors that provide a closed-door environment: A misconception.
It will come as a surprise to many that more and more Saudi women are opting for engineering degrees.
“Our College of Architecture is the biggest in terms of the number of students,” Moodi Alsaib, executive director of Effat University, told Saudi Gazette on the sidelines of a higher education conference in Dubai.
She said that 60 percent of Effat University students were pursuing architecture.
Some 500 students are pursuing electrical and computer engineering in Effat University, a Jeddah-based private higher education institution for women.
The reason the colleges of engineering and architecture and design are popular is because there is a huge demand now for female engineers, said Dr. Zainab Abuelma’atti, Assistant Professor and Dean of Admission and Registration at Effat University.
“There is a lot of development taking place in Saudi Arabia. All of this needs human potential,” she said.
Many Effat University engineering and architecture graduates are working with the mayoralty. Many of these graduates are involved in development projects in the Bani Malik and Baghdadiya areas of Jeddah. They are also involved in restoration projects for historical sites in Makkah, Dr. Zainab said.
Some students are working with General Electric, some are involved in research work at King Abdulaziz City for Science and Technology (KACST).
“They draw plans. They design and oversee the construction of buildings,” added Moodi, who with Dr. Zainab was a speaker at the Ellucian World Tour, a conference held under the theme of “Designed for Higher Education. Together.”
Effat University knows the pulse of the market.
“Before we develop our programs, we do market research. We study the market and its needs. Based on that, we develop programs,” said Moodi.
Seeing the market demand for female engineers, the Dammam-based Prince Muhammad Bin Fahd University opened its electrical engineering college for women this semester.
“We are planning to open other engineering programs for women because there is a demand for female engineers,” said Dr. Muhammad S. Al-Mulhem, vice rector of the university.
He said that female engineering graduates are absorbed in giant companies like Saudi Aramco and Sabic.
“There is a growing demand for our law program as well,” said Dr. Al-Mulhem.
In line with Vision 2030, which emphasizes the use of technology, many Saudi universities and training institutes like the Technical and Vocational Training Corporation (TVTC) have adopted technology in classrooms and in facilitating faculty-student interaction.
Banner Information System and Blackboard Learning Management System are the two most popular technology tools adopted by Saudi higher educational institutes and vocational training centers.
“Our students apply online for admission and registration. Our admission, finance and HR are completely dependent on Banner,” said Nesreen Alfahal, Registrar (Executive Manager) at Effat University.
“We are one of the early adopters of technology. We were the first in Saudi Arabia to install Banner. We have all the latest Cisco-based technologies,” said Moodi, adding, “We have a vision to enable human capital and to enable students to perform and achieve their objectives and their potential.”
“Women have a great role to play in society in view of Vision 2030. The new vision focuses a lot on women. They play a major role and their employment is now counted more than what it was in early stages,” she said.
Jeff Ray, president and chief executive officer of Ellucian, a technology solution vendor for higher education, agrees with Moodi.
“Innovation happens at higher education. We can have a bigger impact on a closer community. Higher education is a highly connected global community. It works and thrives on collaboration,” he said.