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Sun 2 Mar 2008 02:37 AM

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UC Berkeley plans Saudi university deal

'Secret talks' with King Abdullah University of Science and Technology raise discrimination concerns.

UC Berkeley plans Saudi university deal
SECRET TALKS: UC Berkeley, pictured, is discussing a possible collaboration with Saudi Arabias King Abdullah University of Science and Technology, due to open in 2009.

California university UC Berkeley is in "secret talks" with Saudi Arabia’s King Abdullah University of Science and Technology (KAUST), over a possible collaboration, US press reported on Saturday.

Under the planned partnership agreement, the two universities would collaborate on research, with Berkeley helping the Saudi school to hire professors, reported the San Jose Mercury News.

The move has raised concerns among some Berkeley staff that the $10 billion university will discriminate against women, and limit academic freedom, the newspaper said.

However, KAUST will not be subject to gender or religious restrictions, said former US diplomat John Burgess.

“KAUST is unique,” he said. “There will be no government pressure on curriculum or the way anything runs.”

Administrators had declined to disclose further information about the agreement which could be finalised as early as Tuesday, the report added.

KAUST plans to launch in September 2009 with a faculty including professors, academics and research leaders from 60 countries. It aims to have 2,000 students and 600 researchers in situ within eight years.

The main campus will cover more than 36 million square metres in Thuwal, situated on the Red Sea coast.

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Prof Philbert 12 years ago

It is welcome news to have UC Berkley right in the middle of the ME. It will have a good influence in setting standards for research and applications to the industry.