As part of the program surrounding the groundbreaking for King Abdullah University for Science & Technology, a two-session symposium was held, discussing the role of the research university in the modern world. Speakers traced their history, from early Islamic institutions, through Medieval European schools to today’s ‘Humboldtian’ model as exemplified by schools like MIT, Cal Tech, and Cambridge. The speakers thought it was time for a paradigm shift and that KAUST might just be the new model.

The various speakers compared the institutions which they currently lead or recently led to the vision of KAUST. Cooperation and competition, academic freedom, and top quality faculty were their prime requirements for success. This Arab News article goes into greater detail with the keynote address by Dr. Charles Vest, former president of MIT.

KAUST Symposium: Free Flow of Ideas Essential for a Great University
Siraj Wahab, Arab News

JEDDAH, 23 October 2007 — Great universities seek to understand the past, engage the present, and shape the future, said Dr. Charles M. Vest, president of the Washington-based National Academy of Engineering and president emeritus of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

This was the subject of the keynote speech that he delivered yesterday at a symposium convened to celebrate the establishment of the King Abdullah University of Science and Technology (KAUST).

“Universities that have a strong focus on science and technology have a particular responsibility to engage the present and shape the future, but they too must understand the past and learn its lessons. They must do so in order to clearly understand that they are at the core of the flow of human history and essential to human progress,” said Vest to an audience that listened with rapt attention.

His speech was the highlight of the two-session symposium that discussed the role of the research university in the 21st century.

… The keynote address was followed by a panel discussion on the historical and social impact of the 21st century research university. It was moderated by Cornell University President Emeritus Dr. Frank Rhodes who had won many supporters for his speech the previous day. On the panel besides Vest were Dr. Marye Anne Fox, chancellor, University of California, San Diego; Dr. Khalid Al-Sultan, rector and CEO, King Fahd University of Petroleum and Minerals (KFUPM); Dr. Paul Ching-Wu Chu, president, Hong Kong University of Science and Technology; and Dr. John Hegarty, provost, Trinity College, Dublin.

The second session after lunch was moderated by Professor Fawwaz T. Ulaby, professor of electrical engineering, University of Michigan. On the panel to discuss the scientific and economic aspects of the 21st century university were Dr. Karen Holbrook, past president, Ohio State University; Professor Wolfgang Herrmann, president, Technical University of Munich; Dr. Robert Brown, president, Boston University; Dr. Olivier Appert, president, Institut Francais du Petrole; and Professor Muhammad Ibrahim Al-Suwaiyel, president, King Abdul Aziz City for Science and Technology (KACST).

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