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Saudi University Comes in 4th Globally in Attaining U.N. Goals, Forum Hears

LONDON—Saudi Arabia’s King Abdulaziz University came in fourth globally in a ranking of universities based on their activity in support of U.N. goals for sustainable development, the Middle East Education Thought Leadership Forum heard on Wednesday.

Narimane Hadj-Hamou, chief executive of the Center for Learning Innovations & Customised Knowledge Solutions (CLICKS), mentioned the Saudi institution’s achievement in the 2022 Times Higher Education Impact Rankings as she spoke about how the higher-education sector could help achieve the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

Times Higher Education, the British company that produces the Impact Rankings, describes them as the only global classification of universities that assesses them against the U.N. goals.

Universities have a social responsibility to explain to the wider community why the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals are needed, Narimane Hadj-Hamou said.

Hadj-Hamou told the forum’s audience in London and about 2,000 participants listening virtually that many Arab universities were amongst the 1,450 universities evaluated in the Impact Rankings this year, but only King Abdulaziz University had achieved such a high place.

Students themselves should make sure their universities commit to the Sustainable Development Goals, Hadj-Hamou said. Universities have a teaching role and an advocacy role—a social responsibility to explain to the wider community why the goals are needed.

Students should tell the public what they were doing to achieve the goals, educate people about the goals and show their universities’ commitment to them, she said.

The goals also give students an opportunity to get engaged in new partnerships, she added.

Efforts at the British University in Egypt

Mohamed Loutfi, president of the British University in Egypt, discussed what his institution was doing in relation to the SDGs.

Addressing the forum virtually, Loutfi said the university had formed a group of 20 young academics to work out how the institution could align itself with the 17 goals following the spirit of “muhtaram”, in Arabic “a decent guy.”

“You have to know who you are and choose activities aligned with who you are.”

Mohamed Loutfi President of the British University in Egypt

The Faculty of Pharmacy created products which they donated to the local community. The Faculty of Dentistry drove a mobile dental clinic out into rural areas and treated people free.

Engineers made membranes for water desalination plants which they gave to local areas. They also worked on wind turbines with government agencies, and created small ones themselves that could produce enough clean energy for a small village.

Even the Faculty of Law contributed by giving free legal advice to the surrounding community.

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The Universities of Oxford and Cambridge might be able to produce ground-breaking scientific research, but it is important for smaller universities also to contribute within their means, Loutfi said.

“You have to know who you are and choose activities aligned with who you are,” he said.

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