Saudis Launch Hi-tech University - 24 Sep 09

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Saudi Arabia has opened the King Abdullah University of Science and Technology (KAUST) near Jeddah, its fir...
Saudi Arabia has opened the King Abdullah University of Science and Technology (KAUST) near Jeddah, its first co-educational university. 

Authorities hope the mixed-gender centre will help modernise the kingdom's deeply conservative society.

The high-tech campus will focus on science and technology, with professors and students drawn from around the world.

The multi-billion-dollar university is being seen as an attempt by King Abdullah to promote reforms in the kingdom.

Women will also not be required to wear veils in the co-educational classes.

This is in contrast to the wider country where a strict Wahhabi branch of Islam is practised and women are completely segregated.

Hussein Shobokshi, a columnist for the Asharq Alawsat newspaper, told Al Jazeera: "It is a paradigm shift. Education is the tool for empowering this change. This is a global initiative.

"This is a very ambitious project that puts a lot of pressure on the Saudi institutions to raise the bar and meet the level of this university - culturally and ethics wise."

Al Jazeera's Sabina Castelfranco reports from Jeddah.
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