The multi-sided dilemma higher education faces today in Saudi Arabia is how to plan for and implement new technologies how to absorb ever increasing number of high school graduates, and how to train, upgrade personnel, and maintain old systems without spending exorbitant amounts of money. At the same time, institutions are challenged with factors that include shifting demographics, rising student expectations, overburdened traditional government educational institutions, government mandates, and increased competition. Due to such factors; universities in Saudi Arabia are required to adapt their traditional roles, without abandoning them, to the demands of the information society of the future or to adopt a mix of traditional/non-traditional approaches to higher education.
Although the government has invested heavily in higher education, which has grown impressively over the last three decades, the human resources potential of the country is not fully utilized. Higher education needs to be expanded, both horizontally by establishing institutions in regions which lack facilities at this level, and vertically by diversifying the types of institutions and their programs in keeping with recognized priorities of the country and with recent advances in health sciences and technology.
While the government will continue to be the main provider of higher education, the urgent need for Saudi Arabia to meet pressing demands calls as well for an important contribution from the private sector. There is a favorable climate for private initiatives in developing higher education in Saudi Arabia, with due consideration to quality assurance regulations and mechanisms set by the Ministry of Education (MOE) and the National Commission for Accreditation and Academic Assessment (NCAAA).
Almaarefa University (UM) is a private establishment of higher education, designed to fulfill a recognized public function, by meeting clearly identified needs in important domains for national development. By adopting an innovative approach to teaching and learning, by making intensive use of cutting-edge educational technologies, UM attracts students from a broadly targeted clientele, namely high school graduates (both male and female) from the Riyadh region, from other regions of Saudi Arabia, and from the GCC states. It is also envisioned to attract expatriates’ sons and daughters who wish to pursue college studies. Also, UM attracts Diploma graduates from various health specialties through a bridging program.