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Saudi degrees accredited

Bill Gaskarth, Peter Styles and John Powell visit King Abdulaziz University, Jeddah…

The Society's Accreditation Scheme moves east, report Bill Gaskarth, Peter Styles and John Powell.

Geoscientist 18.8 August 2008

Seven BSc degrees from the Faculty of Earth Sciences, King Abdulaziz University, Jeddah have been accredited by the Geological Society Accreditation Committee, namely: Mineral Resources and Rocks; Hydrogeology; Engineering Geology; Environmental Geology; Petroleum Geology and Sedimentology; Structural Geology and Remote Sensing; Geophysics. The degrees emphasise vocational studies and are taught in six separate Departments (Engineering and Environmental are from the same Department), which are linked to form the Faculty of Earth Sciences.

The University contacted the Geological Society in 2005 with regard to possible accreditation. A number of changes were requested by the Accreditation Committee in order to meet the requirements of the Society, particularly in fieldwork provision, independent mapping and projects and the development of a system of External Examining. These requests were all addressed satisfactorily and a detailed application was lodged in late 2007.

A visit to the University is a requirement for all overseas applications and so a visiting group consisting of Bill Gaskarth (Accreditation Committee Chairman), John Powell (Chief Geologist England, BGS) and Peter Styles (Past President Geological Society) went to Jeddah at the end of April 2008. We looked at all aspects of the teaching programmes and facilities, staffing arrangements, student projects and field work arrangements and had detailed discussions with academic staff, university management, students and past students (at the Saudi Geological Survey). From all of this it became clear that the Faculty of Earth Sciences, its constituent Departments are determined to effect the changes asked for by the Society and we make the following observations:

  • The Faculty has some 53 teaching staff with PhDs of which 38 are degrees from western universities (the majority being from the UK). The staff/student ratio is exceptionally favourable compared with any in the UK.
  • The University’s target is to become the premier Earth Sciences provider in the Middle East.
  • Support for the Faculty by University senior management is strong and all Departments are well equipped for both teaching and research Library and computing facilities in support of both are also good. Research activity is underpinned by analytical equipment that would be the envy of virtually any Earth Sciences School/Department in the UK.
  • Most undergraduate fieldwork and independent mapping is undertaken in summer field camps with excellent facilities. Additional short local field excursions will be added to this programme to increase the students’ observation skills and their knowledge of diverse geological terrains.
  • An External Examiner system is now in place with 3 Examiners to cover the range of degrees. The visiting group members have been invited to be the first set of Externals in order to provide continuity with the Accreditation process and to ensure that the GSL requirements are carried out particularly with respect to independent mapping and projects. Allied to this an External Review system is planned.
  • Additional English language training will be provided (4 hours/day) in Year 1 so that all teaching and examining can be done in English for all Years in the near future.
  • Project work is commonly developed during summer placements with employers such as Saudi Geological Survey; Saudi Aramco; Schlumberger; Government Water and Environmental Agencies; various Mining and Mineral Exploration Companies. These will be developed to provide for more independent as opposed to guided work.
Saudi event The recommendation of the visiting group was that Accreditation be granted to King Abdulaziz University, Faculty of Earth Sciences, for all seven degree programmes. There is no doubt that the Faculty is well placed to produce well-trained, high calibre geoscientists who will readily find employment as professionals in the Saudi Arabian geoscience community and overseas.

The group was particularly impressed by the strong support given to the Faculty by the University management for both teaching and research.

The Faculty is looking to raise its research profile and is looking outside Saudi Arabia for collaborative help. UK researchers with interests in the Evolution of the Red Sea; Dynamics and Mineral Deposits of the Saudi Arabian Shield; Regional Engineering and Environmental Geology issues; Characterisation of Saudi Arabian hydrocarbon reservoirs etc would find a welcome from the Faculty. They are keen to welcome western researchers and academics to help continue their progress and realise their ambitions.

During the visit the group gave a seminar on Chartership to an audience of over 100 Saudi geologists. It is apparent from the interest shown that CGeol is worth promoting in this community following on from Accreditation. Hopefully other Universities in the region, and elsewhere in the world, will follow King Abdulaziz University in applying for Accreditation and to date there have been some expressions of interest.