IAU Campus Saudi Arabia

Versatile Co-operation in Educational Development with Imam Abdulrahman bin Faisal University 

The Saudi Arabian-Finnish partnership of Imam Abdulrahman bin Faisal University and University of Turku for over two years has included training, open forum discussions, consultancy, cultural meetings, interviews, direct and indirect impact, and continuous relationship afterwards. Both parties look forward on the continuation of this beneficial co-operation. 

Imam Abdulrahman bin Faisal University (IAU) is a leading research university in Saudi Arabia, ranked #521-530 in the world (QS Global World University Rankings 2021). The multidisciplinary university hosts over 30,000 students and over 3,500 employees in 21 colleges at campuses in five different cities, and 40% of the staff represents other nationalities than Saudis.  

-    For us, it is very important that we are up to the international quality standards in education and that we have an international perspective on education, says Dr Ghazi A. Alotaibi, Vice President for Academic Affairs at IAU.

-    At IAU, we are very committed to developing the skills, knowledge and values of our teaching staff and ultimately to improve the learning experience of our students. Therefore, we constantly look for new co-operation partners around the world, says Dr Mohammed S. Alkathiri, Dean of Academic Development and Assistant Professor in Teaching and Learning.

-    Beside Finland, we have partners in Canada, the US, the UK, Singapore and Australia. Finland is known as a global leader in education and for its high quality universities. This was an important starting point for our co-operation, says Dr Alkathiri.

Dr Alotaibi  

Dr. Ghazi A. Alotaibi, Vice President for Academic Affairs

Dr Alkathari

Dr. Mohammed S. Alkathiri, Dean of University Academic Development. 

Versatile Co-operation

The first four-day project at Imam Abdulrahman bin Faisal University was organised in November 2018. The second one, a week-long intensive skills development project, took place in November 2019, when around 160 teachers and members of staff were trained to incorporate entrepreneurial thinking and innovation education in the university’s study programmes. 
-    Beside workshops and training sessions, our partnership for over two years has included open forum discussions, consultancy, cultural meetings, interviews, direct and indirect impact, and continuous relationship afterwards, says Dr Alkathiri.

-    Our cooperation framework has been innovation in teaching, and we have learnt a great deal when working together with University Lecturers Joachim Ramström, Laura Helle and University Teacher Sanna Ilonen from the University of Turku. First, we had a workshop on project-based learning and then we continued to the second level – implementing entrepreneurial thinking in teaching and learning.

According to Dr Alotaibi, very concrete and practical steps have now been taken in order to implement innovative teaching and learning practices e.g. project-based learning. One of the faculties that attended to the project-based learning session is now proceeding with a project to implement project-based learning to all programmes and courses that they offer at their five departments.

-    Personally, these projects made me realise that innovation always includes risk - there is a risk of failure. Despite that, our task in the management is to encourage our people to try out something new and not to fear failure. Without taking risks, we cannot achieve improvement or innovation, says Dr Alotaibi.

Joachim Ramström at IAU

University Lecturer Joachim Ramström at a session organized at IAU in Nov 2019.

Open Forum Discussion in Saudi Arabia 

Finnish Education Success was the main topic for the Open Forum Discussion.


Successful Partnership in Many Perspectives 

-    We constantly seek different practices around the world to find the best possible solutions for our university and for our needs. One of the best ones has been the partnership with the University of Turku, says Dr Alotaibi. 

-    University of Turku is known as an entrepreneurial university and to apply this entrepreneurial approach to teaching and learning is very unique, adds Dr Alkathiri.  

-    From our point of view, our partnership has been a great success. Everything has been taken care of very well and all the people who have participated this co-operation have been very professional, collaborative and with high qualifications and experience, continues Dr Alkathiri.

-    We are happy and proud that we have this continuous partnership with the University of Turku. In addition, we hope that it will even grow and evolve in the near future, concludes Dr Alotaibi.

Ari Koski, Coordinator and Manager at Global Educational Services of the University of Turku is pleased to hear that the representatives of IAU have been satisfied with the co-operation. 

-    Our universities are very similar in many ways: multidisciplinary, research-oriented, ambitious and internationally oriented. This cooperation has been a very beneficial learning experience for us, too. We have learnt a lot about intercultural communications and gained different perspectives on developing teaching and learning. We have had several co-operation projects in Saudi Arabia but this one is definitely something more: a partnership with mutual understanding, respect and friendship.

UTU Global Educational Services Team in Saudi Arabia
Mr Ari Koski  (right) and Dr Ramström were introduced to the Saudi Arabian culture and customs in Dammam,Saudi Arabia.


Text: Kati Kaarlehto
Pictures: Imam Abdulrahman bin Faisal University