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How many STEM graduates from local universities do Saudi Arabia and UAE produce?

Originally posted on Salaam Gateway

The competitive and sustainable growth of the Islamic economy in the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) hinges to a large extent on the production, transmission and transfer of knowledge. Over the past decade the two largest economies in the GCC—Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates (UAE)—have announced ambitious policy reforms to transform their natural resource-dependent economies to knowledge-based economies and bring more locals into their workforce to balance decades of foreigner-citizen labor distortion.

STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Mathematics) skills and expertise are fundamental to the development and improvement of a knowledge-based economy. How many STEM and STEM-related graduates from local universities do Saudi Arabia and UAE produce?

GENDER IMBALANCE

Data from UAE’s biggest university, the United Arab Emirates University (UAEU) reveals a higher proportion of women in STEM subjects than in Saudi Arabia’s universities, where men still vastly outnumber women in engineering and architecture.

SAUDI ARABIA

In Saudi Arabia, women made up 57 percent of all undergraduates for the 2015/16 academic year, according to statistics from the Ministry of Education. In the same period, more women than men graduated with Bachelors degrees in biology (3,696:1,454), physics (4,748:2,185), mathematics and statistics (2,992:1,833) and Information Technology (IT) (4,006:2,481). But men vastly outnumbered women in engineering (12:3,606), and architecture (1,605:31).

From 2011/12 to 2015/16 there was an increase in women STEM graduates in biology, physics, mathematics and statistics, and IT. Engineering and architecture have remained predominantly male subjects.

Data source: Saudi Arabia Ministry of Education

Data source: Saudi Arabia Ministry of Education

The Princess Nourah bint Abdulrahman University (PNU), a public women’s university located in Riyadh in Saudi Arabia, is the largest university for women in the world. Statistics from the Ministry of Education for the 2015/16 academic year show that the total number of female students enrolled in a bachelor’s program at PNU was 45,267. During the same academic year, 4,897 female students graduated with a bachelor’s degree from the university.

There are no official numbers available for the exact breakdown of PNU’s graduates from each college. However, according to the Ministry of Education, 150,046 female students were enrolled in bachelor’s studies in STEM, which represents 22 percent (150,046/682,545) of the overall number of female students enrolled in bachelor’s studies in all majors in government universities in Saudi Arabia in the 2015/16 academic year.

During the same academic year, 22,143 female students graduated with bachelor’s degrees in STEM, which represents 26 percent (22,143/84,046) of the overall number of female students graduating with bachelor’s degrees from government universities in the Kingdom.

UAE

The UAE’s ambitions and rapid development in industry, aviation, aerospace, green technology and alternative energies demand a high intensity and number of STEM skills and expertise. There is the opportunity to build capacity from the large pool of locally-educated women enrolled in STEM courses.

Despite the lack of country-level statistics available on university student enrollment in the UAE, statistics from the country’s first and largest university, the United Arab Emirates University (UAEU) provide valuable insight on women in STEM in the country.

The last time there was relative gender parity in enrollment at the UAEU was the 1982/83 academic year. That was also the last academic year where there was relative gender parity in the number of graduates from the UAE’s flagship university.

In the 1982/83 academic year, 2,276 male students and 2,286 female students enrolled at UAEU with 304 male students and 291 female students graduating in the same year. In the 2013/14 academic year, 3,240 male students and 10,756 female students enrolled at UAEU with 473 male students and 1,337 female students graduating in the same year.

At UAEU, female students represented 81 percent of the entire student population during the 2015/16 academic year. Even in traditionally male-dominated STEM majors, female enrollment at UAEU greatly outnumbered male enrollment. Female students represented 83 percent of students enrolled in the sciences, 68 percent in engineering, 76 percent in the medical and health sciences and 79 percent in IT.

Data source: United Arab Emirates University

Data source: United Arab Emirates University

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