SAUDI ARABIA: Elite science and technology university opens

Saudi Arabia has dug into its oil-fuelled coffers to set up a new research university, a multi-billion dollar coed venture built on the promise of scientific freedom in a region where a conservative interpretation of Islam has often been blamed for stifling innovation, reports Tarek El-Tablawy for Associated Press.

The King Abdullah Science and Technology University -- complete with state-of-the-art labs, the world's 14th fastest supercomputer and one of the biggest endowments worldwide -- officially opened its doors on Wednesday on a sprawling campus nestled along the Red Sea coast about 80 kilometres north of the commercial centre of Jeddah.

Saudi officials have envisaged the postgraduate institution as a key part of the kingdom's plans to transform itself into a global scientific hub, the latest effort in the oil-rich Gulf region to diversify its economic base. But KAUST, whether its founders intend it or not, has the potential to represent one of the clearest fault lines in a battle between conservatives and modernisers in the kingdom.
Full report on The Associated Press site