Wednesday, July 13th, 2011
The changing face (and gender) of Saudi higher education.
Not pictures OF travel, pictures FOR travel!
Summer Travel Tips
1) ABROAD PERSPECTIVES – The changing face (and gender) of Saudi higher education.
There is a steady and growing change sweeping over Saudi Arabia – but not the type of change you might be thinking. There are no street demonstrations in Riyadh, or social media campaigns encouraging the masses to support this particular movement. Yet it is no less a revolution… and it’s occurring right in the Kingdom’s own universities, as well as campuses abroad, where Saudi women are leading the way.
According to an article on Mideastposts.com, an estimated 56.6% of students in Saudi and foreign universities are now women. This also includes about a quarter of the 110,000 Saudi students studying abroad under the King Abdullah Foreign Scholarship Program. And with almost a quarter of the country’s entire budget (which equals around $154 billion) now going towards education and training (ie: $40 billion was earmarked in the 2011 fiscal budget alone), it seems the number of Saudi women pursuing higher education may very well continue to rise.
Though the plans and/or construction for nearly 4,000 schools and 10 colleges are currently underway within the Kingdom, thousands of Saudi women are currently being given access to free undergraduate or postgraduate education, almost anywhere in the world. Western universities top the list for preferred locations – which fits in well with the overall goals of the King’s scholarship program, being to help bridge the gap between the West and Middle East, and to integrate women into the Saudi workforce.
Yet this integration is proving difficult. Teaching is still viewed as the traditional female Saudi job, and although such female students are returning home with top-quality degrees in a range of subjects, it seems many are still finding it difficult to obtain jobs with Saudi companies, especially in any management or decision-making roles. In fact, there is currently a 28% unemployment rate among working age women.
Aware of this hurdle, Saudi authorities have eased some of the more restrictive laws, such as lifting gender-mixing bans in private workplaces. But still, many women are looking to other Gulf countries or the West, hoping for job prospects that will better match their degrees – and allow them to work toward their career aspirations.
The Ministry of Higher Education is aware of this trend. According to the same article on Mideastposts.com, the ministry recently notified its cultural attaches to investigate and take legal action against scholarship students who seek permanent residency or citizenship in the countries where they are studying. According to the article, the ministry will suspend the scholarship and demand a refund if students are caught.
Yet still, the Saudis are committed to providing quality education to their citizens – aggressively encouraging university students, both male and female, to study abroad. Currently in the United States, 38,000 Saudis are attending colleges and universities, while about 15,000 are enrolled in the UK, and another 10,000 in Canada, according to the Saudi Ministry of Higher Education.
If ministry predictions are correct, overall worldwide enrolment will reach 150,000 over the next few years. The question now then, is how many of these students will return back home?
Source: “Quiet Revolution: The Saudi, Female Brain Drain”. Mideastposts.com.
2) GLOBE TIPPING – Not pictures OF travel, pictures FOR travel!
This summer, many of us will be packing our bags and heading off for parts unknown. So if you’re hoping for as smooth a travel experience as possible – whether your destination is for business or pleasure – you might want to consider these following ‘camera-phone’ tips. Although smartphones are known to be great travel companions (especially with all the magic travel apps out there), any phone with a basic camera can make use of these tips – or any actual digital camera, for that matter (but then just don’t forget to keep it in your pocket!)
Snap a picture of any bags you intend to check with an airline or tour company.
Hopefully you won’t be one of the many whose bags get misplaced by en-route, but if so it may help if you have a photo of the bag(s) to show the airline or tour company staff what they should be looking for. This is especially handy if your bag has been put in any lost-and-found, or baggage area that is off-limits for passengers.
Also snap a photo of anything pricey or out of the ordinary you pack in checked bags. Although it’s obviously not advisable to check wads of cash or important documents, it’s sometimes just not possible to pack everything you’d like to in your carry-on bag – especially anything that is particularly wieldy or takes up a lot of weight. For example, sports equipment, camera tripods, and/or masses of power cords and adaptor cables (for all the electronics that you’ve hopefully carried on board) all fit into this category. In the event that a bag is lost and a claim needs to be filed, having a photo of the items, including their brands or makes if possible, can be extremely handy. Hopefully you won’t need to replace gear due to a baggage mishap, but if so, a photo could make the process a lot easier.
Take a photo of your hotel room number. In the old days, hotels used regular keys with the room number stamped on them – taking the guesswork out of remembering which room was yours. In the world of electronic card keys, the room number is deliberately omitted for security. So unless you’re particularly good with numbers and/or memory, rather than carelessly jotting your room number down on the paper holding the key card (we know we’ve all done it….), just snap a picture of your door number instead. Then all you have to do is glance through your picture gallery to remember.
Snap your car in the airport lot to remember where you parked. Even worse than forgetting your hotel room number is forgetting exactly where you’ve parked in an airport lot. Especially when you’re tired and anxious to get home at the end of a long trip. To avoid this, take a couple of photos that clearly mark where you parked your car – only a few seconds’ work, to save you minutes (or an hour…) of stress later on.
Take a photo of your hotel to show taxi drivers. Especially if traveling anywhere that English is not the native language, communicating with taxi drivers can be daunting. The easiest way to communicate where you are staying (besides carrying a map with the hotel clearly marked – usually available at the front desk) is to show the driver a picture of the place.
Source: “5 travel tips using your smartphone camera”. ZDNet, June 5, 2011.
3) GLOBE TIPPING – Summer Travel Tips
Even with higher gas prices, soaring airfares, and hotel rates picking up, travelers seem determined to hit the road this summer. Good news for the travel industry, that’s for sure!
The Air Transport Association, for example, predicts that U.S. airlines alone will carry a total of 206.2 million passengers from June through August – that’s about 3 million more passengers than during the same time last year.
Predictably, with all this extra demand, the dreaded reaction is also happening – prices are UP. Including hotel prices, which have risen between 5 and 10%, according to the American Automobile Association. Airfares are up around 14% from 2010, and a gallon of gas in the states averages around $3.80 – more than $1 higher than this time last year.
So with all these price hikes, here are a few head’s up to help turn your summer trip plans into happy travels!
According to travel site Cheapflights.com, beware hidden travel fees. The worst being so-called “peak travel day fees,” when higher demand = higher prices. Problem is, almost every day during June, July and August is considered a “peak” day, so the only way to avoid it, according to the company, is to postpone your vacation until the end of the summer – if possible.
Another site, LowFares.com, recommends looking at the Caribbean, Cancun and Las Vegas for relief from high prices. Only thing about these deals is that they’re typically cheap for good reason: summertime is also hurricane time in the Caribbean, and July in Las Vegas, with temperatures of around 106 degrees Fahrenheit, is hot enough to melt your flip flops onto the tarmac.
For some more obvious tips, you can also check your own federal government’s travel advisories – who, besides listing any new carry-on luggage bannings for flights leaving from your country, are known for providing such “precious gems of information” as this, courtesy of the U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP): “Build extra time into the trip in the event of crossing during periods of exceptionally heavy traffic.” Whoever didn’t realize that one really shouldn’t be traveling…
Other slightly obvious (yet useful), tips can be found on ExxonMobil.com, who recommends keeping your tires properly inflated. It estimates that U.S. motorists alone could save 700 million gallons of gas each year with properly maintained tires. Give your car a tuneup, and be sure to use the correct motor oil, it also advises. These measures could improve your fuel efficiency by between 2 and 4%.
Of course, the only tried and true way to ensure you save your money this summer is to stay home. But for those deciding to brave the travel masses, just try to book as early as possible. And consider comparing deals through the following travel engines, for car rentals, hotels, and flights: Hotwire.com, Expedia.com, and Kayak.com – and be sure to check out any ratings or comments available on TripAdvisor.com before you finalize any booking.
Good luck bargain hunting!
Source: “The Navigator: With vacation travel up this summer, what are the best travel tips?” The Washington Post, June 1, 2011.