I have been meaning to write about this for several days, but with classes settling into a clipping pace and with research/TA duties, posts may be a little more spaced out than usual. Anyway, King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia has donated $10 billion (that's right, billion with a b) of his own pocket change to create the King Abdullah University of Science and Technology or KAUST for short. (I won't make the obvious pun about the kaust of the university. Oops, I just did.) This endowment is one of the 10 largest ever. It's funding will be similar to that of top schools like Harvard and MIT.
What is amazing about this university is exactly how much effort is being put into making it a great center of learning. Instead of being divided into departments in the traditional way (Chemistry, Math, Biology, English, Drama, etc.), KAUST is divided into interdisciplinary institutes which focus on working with industry and solving important global problems. So far, there are four institutes listed: Resources, Energy and Environment; Biosciences and Bioengineering; Materials Science and Engineering; and Applied Mathematics and Computational Science.
To increase the amount and efficiency of research at the new university, the science faculty will be provided with grants totaling $1 billion over ten years (that's total, not per scientist). This will help the scientists focus on their research instead of continuously digging up money to support their projects.
There is a similar incentive for students. Besides the several scholarships available to undergraduate students, all juniors, seniors, and graduate students will be provided free tuition for the next ten years.
You can seen the layout of the new university here. Hopefully the real campus will be as amazing as the 3D models.
This is an exciting time to be a student in Saudi Arabia. Education is the solution to so many of the world's social problems. Here's hoping it turns out as amazing as it sounds on paper.
You can read some more about his through Scientific American or from Bob Novella at The Rogues Gallery.