Saudi Arabia has invested heavily in its economic development. A central part of this economic development has been centered on establishing four newly developed metropolizes that are intended to lead the Kingdom into a post-petroleum economy.
One of the leading developing metropolizes is the King Abdullah Economic City (KAEC).
KAEC, under the guidance of Deputy Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, recently announced that one of its leading higher education institutions would be a public-private partnership.
Such innovative approaches to higher education within these types of economic development zones in the Kingdom are necessary.
This is because, as has been reported, some 65 percent of the Kingdom’s overall population is 30 years of age or under and about 200 thousand Saudi citizens are studying abroad.
This type of young demographic combined with the global perspective that they bring back into the nation with them ensures that KAEC must respond to their demand for First World education and training requirements.
This particular public-private partnership announced from Washington between Babson College, Lockheed Martin and KAEC designed to establish the Prince Mohammed bin Salman College for Administration and Entrepreneur-ship (CAE). These types of partnerships in higher education are extremely well-suited to the emergence of a globalized economy.
Furthermore, such public-private partnerships in higher education also conform well to the imperatives found within the Saudi Vision 2030 framework.
The Saudi Vision 2030 framework is entirely based on the premise that petroleum is a finite resource and therefore the Kingdom must prepare economically for a post-petroleum economy.
Traditionally, higher education has been structured around operating such institutions through publicly managed channels. That is, most higher education institutions were established by some level of public governance and reliant, either partially or completely, on public funding and student tuition.
Yet, many higher education institutions the world over now face the threat of shrinking endowments, losses in public funding, major cost-cutting efforts leading to fewer professorships and similar difficulties.
Additionally, the more traditional publicly oriented higher education institutions often lack the adaptability necessary to keep up with changes in the marketplace vis-à-vis the practicality of their degree programs and training. In some sense, public-private partnerships within higher education are a recognition of the differences between theory and practice as it were.
The fact is that higher education institutions have established competencies in research, analysis and blue-sky exploration. However, corporations and industries as a whole depend upon a workforce that is proficient in practical competencies with real-world application.
These are the qualities that public-private partnerships can and do provide since the private sector knows exactly what it needs with respect to the training and development of the specialists within a particular field.
The fact is that traditional institutions of higher education lack the competitiveness that the globalized economy demands.
Private industry within the global economy appreciates blue-sky exploration but requires skilled employees that are proficient at marketable competencies and greenfield recommendations that produce tangible economic returns to the firm.
Thus, public-private partnerships provide a key mechanism that can develop the competitiveness that markets such as Saudi Arabia require in order to remain globally relevant.
Integrating the private sector into the establishment and management of higher education institutions is a key response to the global marketplace.
Education is now recognized as being more associated with economic efficiency and critical to developing a nation’s international competitiveness.
The point is that traditional higher education institutions often produce relatively low graduation rates with respect to the overall number of programs that they offer.
Additionally, they maintain 50 percent or higher rates in graduates that remain unemployed for a period of time following graduation or underemployed at some level.
Public-private partnerships are able to reverse these types of negative attributes of traditional higher education programs.
Essentially, public-private partnerships ensure that higher education programs and degrees produce graduates that are able to function in the global, knowledge-based economy.
Saudi Arabia has recently revised its long-term vision for the Kingdom and its place in the global economic framework.
The vision for the Kingdom is based on a series of three core pillars that are designed, ultimately, to shift the Kingdom away from a dependence on petroleum as the main economic driver and toward a knowledge-based economy.
The three core-pillars of the 2030 Vision are: the status of the Kingdom as the center of the Arab and Islamic world, becoming a global financial center, and an international transportation hub.
From a practical perspective, this Vision 2030 is being acted on through projects such as KAEC which is spearheading this new forward-looking vision for the Kingdom. The nation is committing in excess of SR360 billion to erect this metropolis upon what amounts to completely undeveloped desert.
Over the long-term the Kingdom expects more than 2 million people to inhabit KAEC but this influx of city residents will begin with an estimated 50 thousand people by 2020 which is just a few brief years away.
At the center of the Vision 2030 initiative itself is the acknowledgment that the new, global economy is a knowledge-based economy.
All three of the three core pillars in the Vision 2030 depend upon knowledge-based factors.Traditionally driven economies depend upon raw production capacity, natural resources and the size of the labor force in order to support economic growth.
However, knowledge-based economies in the contemporary global environment in turn depend upon two critical developments which are a sophisticated technological infrastructure and providing a well-educated and highly trained workforce.
Hence, in knowledge-based economies, economic growth is supported fundamentally by institutional factors that support entrepreneurial activity of which higher education is a central feature of such activity.
This is why developing more sophisticated public-private partnerships within higher education is the most effective way that the Kingdom can transition away from a natural resource dependent economy.
Likewise, the urban landscape within such an economic framework must host 1st world information and technology as well as communications infrastructure.
In this regard, it is fairly clear that public-private partnerships in higher education, such as the Babson College-Lockheed Martininitiative with KAEC, facilitate such a transition.
Babson College in particular, through its recognized Babson Global subsidiary, has developed a specialized pedagogical platform necessary to knowledge-based economies.
Babson Global has developed a practical curriculum based on Entrepreneurial Thought and Action or ETA and its SEERS curriculum which stands for Social, Environmental, Economic Responsibility and Sustainability.
Combined, these practical, real-world curricula are designed to foster innovation and creativity within targeted markets and in collaboration with both private industry and traditional education institutions.
Fortunately, the national leadership has recognized that it is not enough for the Kingdom to continue to support its highly respected but traditional higher education programs.
Rather, as this paper illustrates, in order to remain economically relevant and to make the transition to a fully knowledge-based economy, the Kingdom must avail itself of public-private partnerships in higher education. Knowledge-driven economies depend upon a workforce that is able to not only recognize greenfield opportunities but to develop executable plans that can take advantage of them.
These types of public-private partnerships align seamlessly with the core tenets of the Vision 2030 doctrine as promulgated by the Council of Economic and Development Affairs.
Source: Arab News