UC Berkeley to team with new Saudi university
( dpa ) - The mechanical engineering department of the prestigious University of California, Berkeley is teaming up with Saudi Arabia's King Abdullah University of Science and Technology, the US university said Tuesday
Under the terms of the alliance, the publicly-funded Berkeley will receive millions of dollars in exchange for advising on curriculum, hiring professors and collaborating on research as the university is developed.
"I am excited and eager to proceed with this agreement," said Professor Al Pisano, chair of Berkeley's mechanical engineering department in a statement on the university's website.
News of the agreement came just weeks after the Saudi institution inked a pact on nanotechnology research with the Hong Kong University of Science and Technology.
According to the San Francisco Chronicle earlier Tuesday, the deal was approved by 34 of the engineering department's 44 tenured professors.
Critics have voiced concern about the possibility that the new Saudi university could exclude women and Jews. The university posted a paragraph in the agreement that all "educational, administrative and other activities of the University shall be conducted without regard to race, color, religion or gender."
"Discrimination, on any such basis, is strictly forbidden," the agreement dstates.
"We are going to have an agreement in which any kind of discrimination will be forbidden," Pisano was quoted as saying by the newspaper. "This new university will have no discrimination at all."
He said that even having an island of nondiscrimination will make inroads for the rest of the country.
"You get it started on a small scale and get it going from there," Pisano said.
The university is being built on the Red Sea at Thuwal, about 80 kilometers north of Saudi Arabia's second-largest city, Jeddah, the Chronicle story said.
It is scheduled to open in the fall of 2009 and will accept students of both sexes in a multi-billion dollar bid to create the Arab world's first world class research center.
The Saudi money will allow the mechanical engineering department to upgrade laboratories, support graduate students and bolster efforts to recruit women into the department, said Pisano.
Possible joint research topics "will benefit not only the Middle East but California," Pisano said, and may include such things as improved desalination of ocean water, innovations in alternative energy and the development of lightweight materials for cars, planes and buildings.