01:34 am - Wednesday 27 May 2015

Saudi king opens largest women-only university

By staff - Wed May 18, 12:20 pm

RIYADH (AFP) – Saudi King Abdullah inaugurated on Sunday the largest women-only university campus in the ultra-conservative kingdom which applies strict segregation between men and women.

The $5.3-billion new campus of Princess Nora bint Abdulrahman University, spread over eight million square metres (26 million feet) on the outskirts of the capital, could host up to 50,000 students in its 15 departments.

It is also planned to be a car-free environment, operating a shuttle monorail train and electric buggies for internal transport, while solar panels stretched on the campus will reportedly generate 18 percent of the power needed for air-conditioning.

The campus also boasts a 700-bed hospital and accommodation facilities that could lodge 12,000 students.

Women at Saudi schools and universities are strictly segregated from men behind high walls and closed gates, while male professors deliver their lectures through video connection.

King Abdullah provoked extremists in 2009 when he opened the kingdom’s only mixed university, the King Abdullah University of Science and Technology, north of Jeddah, which is limited to post-graduate science students and researchers.

Women in Saudi Arabia, which applies a strict version of Sunni Islam, bans women from driving, or travelling with male authorisation. They are also obliged to cover from head to foe when in public.

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