An open university for women in Saudi Arabia : problems and prospects
This study investigates the prospects of setting up an open university for women in Saudi Arabia against the background of the problems which Saudi women face in pursuing higher education. A review is given of the development of modern public education for women since its beginning in 1960, with emphasis on the more recent development of higher education for women. The position of women in Islam and in contemporary Saudi society is examined as this has influenced their access to higher education. An account is also given of the development of women's position in contemporary Western society. Three open universities, the United Kingdom Open University, the Sukhathai Thammahirat Open University (Thailand), and the Allama Iqbal Open University (Pakistan) are described in 'order to demonstrate how the idea of an Open University first arose (UKOU) , and how it was later realized in a developing county (Thailand), and in an Islamic country (Pakistan). A questionnaire was devised in order to gather data on attitudes to the setting up of an open university for women in Saudi Arabia, on perceptions of its feasibility, and on possible obstacles to its foundation. The questionnaire also included a section on the most suitable model for an open university for women in Saudi Arabia. The questionnaire was distributed in government bodies and higher educational establishments in Saudi Arabia to policy makers, academics, and female students. An analysis of the data reveals a very positive response to the setting up of an open university for women in Saudi Arabia. Respondents, however, demonstrated a realistic awareness of the problems of gaining public acceptance for a new type of higher education and of the launching of a new project in a time of restrictions on government spending. Finally, on the basis of the findings from the survey, a proposal is made for the setting up of an open university suitable for women in Saudi Arabia today.