Saudi Arabia set to scrap male guardian rule for Saudi females studying abroad: Senior diplomat

The end of the male guardian rule is likely to encourage more Saudi women to apply for places in American universities. (Photo/Supplied)
Updated 09 August 2019

Saudi Arabia set to scrap male guardian rule for Saudi females studying abroad: Senior diplomat

  • Ending the male guardian rule would encourage more Saudi women to apply for places in American universities

RIYADH: Saudi Arabia is poised to abolish the legal requirement for a male guardian to accompany females during scholarship periods abroad, a top diplomat has revealed.

Saudi Cultural Attaché to the US Dr. Mohammed Al-Issa told Arab News on Thursday that the Ministry of Education was set to scrap the mahram (guardian) clause but said the move was yet to be officially confirmed.

Ending the male guardian rule would encourage more Saudi women to apply for places in American universities, he said, especially those who had missed the opportunity for a scholarship because of the clause.

Many female students who travel to US educational institutions with a male guardian currently receive extra allowances to help cover rent and other expenses.


In April 2019, the number of Saudi women studying abroad had reached 30,617, with the number of male students topping 55,440, according to the Saudi Ministry of Education.

If the changes take place, Al-Issa said it would be unlikely that housing payments would rise.

“I don’t think that there will be an increase in allowance for females. I also believe that being accompanied by a legal male guardian might be optional for them,” he added.

Under the planned new rules, female students already on university courses in the US with an accompanying male guardian will have the option to continue with the arrangement if they wish, said Al-Issa.

“In fact, the Saudi Cultural Mission is flexible and had exempted some students from the presence of the male guardian in the past, in case they face difficulties, especially for females who are completing their higher studies or those who have an official approval from their male guardians.”

Energy chiefs sign deal to locate hi-tech MENA test lab in Saudi Arabia

Updated 1 min 17 sec ago

Energy chiefs sign deal to locate hi-tech MENA test lab in Saudi Arabia

  • Project to put Kingdom at the global center of sustainable energy market

JEDDAH: Energy chiefs on Wednesday signed a deal to set up the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region’s first specialized equipment test lab in Saudi Arabia.

Once completed, the project is expected to put the Kingdom at the center of the global sustainable energy market sector.

The accord was inked during a ceremony at the start of the ninth Saudi Arabia Smart Grid (SASG 2019) conference held at Jeddah’s Ritz-Carlton hotel.

Global technical consulting and engineering company CESI, and GCC Electrical Testing Laboratory (GCC Lab) agreed to establish the Gulf Electrical Power Laboratories (CESI/GEPL) as the first and largest independent entity of its kind in the MENA region.

Mohammed Al-Muaili, CESI/GEPL’s acting CEO, told Arab News: “Our partnership with CESI includes an exclusive agreement to serve the Middle East and North Africa.”

GEPL is a state-of-the-art semi-governmental electromechanical testing facility that provides localized and technical services from Saudi Arabia to the wider GCC and MENA region, and the testing platform will provide engineering and consultancy services from its soon-to-be-built lab in Dammam.

Services offered will include asset management, upgrading assets and maintenance procedures, training and certifications for engineers and technicians, research and development, as well as quality assurance and control. “We aim to end the prevalence of sub-quality materials,” said Saleh Al-Amri, GCC Lab CEO. “Our venture will provide the tools to enable our stakeholders to stop flooding the industry and ensure that all power components that they use are compliant with the highest international standards.

“The lab will be a key asset to support the policies that will sustain the electrical industry in the region. Localizing electromechanical testing is a great milestone for Saudi.”

Al-Muaili said the idea behind the project was first formed in 2014 and it started to be implemented at the beginning of 2016. “In the meantime, our renewable energy and calibration laboratories are 100 percent active. However, in light of this agreement, other labs such as the high-voltage and high-power labs are planned to be 100 percent ready by mid-2021 at most.”

Based in Milan, CESI is a world-leading technical consulting and engineering company operating in more than 40 countries around the world, providing testing and certification services to the electromechanical industry as well as consulting and engineering services to the energy sector.

It is one of the few notified bodies in the world for testing and certification of energy components from low, up to the highest, voltage.

Floris Schulze, managing director and CEO at CESI Middle East, said that the project would contribute to bridging a long-standing gap in the region not only for its unique services but its strategic location.

“The Kingdom is very well-geographically located and looking at all the developments in the Kingdom and the GCC, there will be a lot of different interactions between the continents and countries including energy exchange,” Schulze added.

A growing regional need to move away from a reliance on an oil and gas-based energy sector to more sustainable clean energy, would require different technologies and components and an ability to ensure quality was aligned with international standards.

Schulze, who is also the chief operating officer of the new laboratory company in Dammam, said: “I think it is the right time to have such a laboratory established in the Kingdom providing the quality assurance and control services to make sure that the manufacturers are committed to international standards once they begin providing their components; otherwise cheap and low-quality products will flood the GCC market causing many problems in the region’s energy sector.”

The CESI/GEPL will also train local experts and engineers to localize knowledge and expertise, helping to achieve Vision 2030’s goal of creating a sustainable knowledge economy and benefitting from global experience. “Once the project is complete, Saudi Arabia will earn its place on the map among the most important global mega labs and will play a leading role in the regional scene,” said Al-Muaili.

The conference signing ceremony was also attended by Dr. Khalid bin Saleh Al-Sultan, chairman of King Abdullah City for Atomic and Renewable Energy, and Stefano Stucci, Italy’s consul general in Jeddah.

SASG 2019, which ends on Dec. 12, is an annual event held under the auspices of the ministries of energy, industry, and mineral resources, and offers a platform for different local participants to share their visions and achievements in the field of emerging technologies.