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Q&A: Agreement between UC Berkeley's Mechanical Engineering Department and King Abdullah University of Science and Technology

4 March 2007

Q. What is KAUST?
A. King Abdullah University of Science and Technology (KAUST) is being built in Saudi Arabia as an international, graduate-level research university. KAUST officials say the university will employ many of the best practices from leading research universities and enable top researchers from around the globe and across all cultures to work together to solve challenging scientific and technological issues. The KAUST global research and education network will support diverse talents, both on its campus and at other premier universities and research institutions, through collaborative research agreements, grants, and student scholarship programs. KAUST will be merit-based, open to men and women from all cultures around the world, and governed by an independent, self-perpetuating board of trustees. The core campus, located on the Red Sea at the city of Thuwal, is set to open in September 2009. More information about KAUST is available on the school's website.

Q. Why is UC Berkeley participating in this university?
A. In 2007, officials with KAUST invited select top universities and colleges from around the world to submit proposals for partnerships. UC Berkeley's Mechanical Engineering Department submitted a proposal that was accepted by KAUST.

According to the chair of the Mechanical Engineering Department, department faculty were interested in participating in the partnership because doing so would allow the department to work on research projects of mutual interest and benefit. They also believed such a partnership allowed for positive engagement in the Middle East, fit with UC Berkeley's interest in helping people around the world; and would greatly benefit UC Berkeley graduate students and faculty in the department through additional funds for scholarships, fellowships, research projects, lab equipment recruitment and curriculum development.

Q. How does this partnership fit with UC Berkeley's mission?
A. A core mission of both UC Berkeley and its Mechanical Engineering Department is to conduct research in the interest of society. The department generates research that develops new techniques that benefit people throughout the world; this partnership will further that effort. For example, under the partnership, UC Berkeley and KAUST will collaborate on research of great interest to Saudis and Californians. This includes converting salt water to drinking water, creating stronger but lighter- weight composite materials for use in construction,and developing new renewable energy sources that lessen the world's demand for a limited supply of oil.

Q. What about academic freedom? Will faculty at KAUST have such freedoms?
A. UC Berkeley faculty have been assured by KAUST that academic freedom is one of the primary features and objectives of the new university. Further, Article 4 of the KAUST bylaws states that KAUST "shall have complete freedom in governing and managing its colleges, institutes, schools, centers and departments without any intervention by others. In this regard, the University shall be exempt from those regulations, policies and procedures applicable to other universities in the Kingdom and their respective faculty members. Within the University, the teaching staff shall have the academic and cultural freedom available in international universities."

Q. What is the duration of the partnership?
A. The agreement, signed on February 26, 2008, will last five years, ending on Dec. 31, 2012. The agreement can be terminated in 30 days by either party and without penalty.

Q. What are the major terms of the UC Berkeley Mechanical Engineering Department partnership with KAUST?
A. Nomination of KAUST founding faculty:  UC Berkeley mechanical engineering faculty will identify candidates to become KAUST founding faculty members. They will attempt to find five candidates by September 2008 and another five by September 2009. All formal recruitment will be done by KAUST.

In the event that KAUST is unable to hire 10 founding faculty members among those identified by UC Berkeley,  then UC Berkeley mechanical engineering faculty may elect to help  KAUST  by using distance learning to broadcast graduate courses from UC Berkeley to students in Saudi Arabia. Or, UC Berkeley faculty may elect to teach at KAUST for a semester.

Curriculum development: The mechanical engineering faculty will assist KAUST in developing a world-class curriculum for KAUST's master's and doctoral programs in mechanical engineering.

UC Berkeley faculty visits to KAUST: Each semester, a group of three to six UC Berkeley mechanical engineering faculty will visit KAUST for one week and while there they may oversee research, teach a seminar, review KAUST programs, or collaborate on research projects.

KAUST faculty visits to UC Berkeley: As part of the effort to foster close research collaboration and to better develop KAUST curriculum, KAUST faculty may come to UC Berkeley as visiting fellows in the Mechanical Engineering Department. As with standard UC Berkeley visiting scholar arrangements, such visits could be as short as a week or as long as two years.

Additional terms: For a complete list of contract terms, and details of terms listed here, view the final agreement (2.5Mb PDF).

Q. Will UC Berkeley graduate students in mechanical engineering have an opportunity to study at KAUST?
A. Yes, UC Berkeley graduate students will have the opportunity to study at KAUST as part of the new university's student exchange program or as applicants to KAUST graduate programs.

KAUST officials have said that it anticipates the student population, comprised entirely graduate students,  will be approximately 30 percent Saudi students; 30 percent other Middle Eastern students; 20 percent Asian students; 10 percent European students; and 10 percent students from North America. In all, KAUST expects to have no more than 2,000 students when it reaches full enrollment.

Q. How will the Berkeley campus be compensated for work establishing KAUST?
A. KAUST will provide the Mechanical Engineering Department with $28 million over five years. These funds will pay for fellowships for the department's graduate students, help support its research projects, fund joint-research with KAUST, provide additional lab equipment at Berkeley, and cover administrative costs. In addition, the Mechanical Engineering Department will allocate part of the funds to increase its efforts to recruit and retain women faculty and students.

Q. Who reviewed the proposed agreement and gave final approval?
A. The proposed agreement went through many levels of evaluation including review by the UC Berkeley Office of the Chancellor, university attorneys, the dean of the College of Engineering and the chair of the Mechanical Engineering Department.

Q. Were any other members of the campus community involved in reviewing the agreement?
A. Yes, the proposal was discussed with the mechanical engineering faculty, which overwhelmingly supported the agreement. In addition, the Academic Senate's Task Force on Industry-University Relations reviewed the proposal and provided guidance to campus leadership. The task force supported the agreement as well.

Q. Will women be allowed to attend the new university in Saudi Arabia?
A. Yes. The agreement with UC Berkeley's Mechanical Engineering Department makes it clear that women are encouraged to attend the new university and are to receive the same education and in the same manner as their male counterparts. Women faculty also are to be treated equally. UC Berkeley would not have entered into the agreement if that were not the case, said campus officials.

Article 2 of KAUST bylaws states "The admission of students, the appointment, promotion and retention of faculty and staff, and all of the 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."

Q. Who will monitor the agreement?
A. In addition to the visits to KAUST each semester by UC Berkeley mechanical engineering faculty, the agreement requires two visits by UC Berkeley faculty specifically for evaluation of the KAUST program. The UC Berkeley faculty will produce a written report of its findings and recommendations.

Q. Will KAUST use UC Berkeley's name and reputation to enhance its image in ads and public relations efforts?
A. Neither party will be able to use a name or trademark of the other party in any advertisement or publicity unless it has the written consent of the other.