The Dammam Campus of King Faisal University (KFU) has been hived off and is now operating as a separate university altogether. Now called the University of Dammam, it is being run by the Ministry of Higher Education as a separate entity with an independent government-appointed board, as with other universities.
Located on a sprawling campus along what is popularly known as the Coastal Road, the university has on its roll thousands of Saudi men and women students, as well as professors and teachers.
There is also a sizable foreign faculty at the university's many colleges.
The decision to convert the Dammam campus into a separate university was taken after intense discussions between Saudi academics and the government.
The Dammam campus had become much, much bigger than the main campus in Al-Hasa and was therefore posing administrative difficulties.
One professor associated with the university told Arab News that all paperwork had to be done in Al-Hasa, about 150 km from Dammam.
“That is where all administrative departments were located. That is where all the decisions were taken. This would result in unnecessary hassles and salary delays on some occasions,” she said.
“This is a smart move and was long overdue…it will help with better administration.”
Though the decision to create the university was taken some months ago, it was only recently that signboards mentioning the new university’s name went up at the institution’s main gate.
This created quite a stir among residents and expatriates. The university’s campus is a famous landmark on Dammam’s Coastal Road.
King Faisal University was set up in 1975 and, according to latest statistics, had more than 20,000 students at its two campuses.
After the split, the exact number of students at the two campuses could not be ascertained.
When it was set up, the decision to locate the main branch at Al-Hasa was to promote scientific studies in the field of agriculture. At its branch in Dammam, applied sciences were given precedence.
Over the years, the Dammam campus of the university grew in size and prestige, prompting the government to launch it as a separate university.
According to insiders, all colleges in Dammam and Alkhobar will now be affiliated with the new university. This was not the case before. Even technical institutes will now come under the purview of the new university.
Some of the university’s famous colleges are the College of Medicine, College of Dentistry, College of Applied Medical Sciences, College of Architecture and College of Interior Design.
Prominent columnist and member of the Shoura Council Najeeb Al-Zamil described it as a good move.
“What would you prefer, a dinosaur or a gazelle?” he asked. “When an entity becomes too big it becomes difficult to handle. So you need to have separate units for better management. This has exactly what happened with King Faisal University.”
He said it did not make sense for a university to have a main campus that was smaller than one of its branches.
“When that happens, it goes without saying that the branch has to be converted into a separate university,” he said.
The University of Dammam has now become the third major government institution in the region, the other two being King Fahd University of Petroleum and Minerals in Dhahran and King Faisal University in Al-Hasa.
There is also a branch of the Riyadh-based Imam Muhammed Bin Saud Islamic University in Al-Hasa, which is not a full-fledged university. The private Prince Muhammad bin Fahd University is also in the region.