King Abdullah will open King Abdullah University of Science & Technology (Kaust) today.

The Higher Education Ministry and Saudi Aramco built the SR10bn ($2.6bn) graduate level research university on the Red Sea coast at Thuwal.

The university has 817 students from 61 different countries and 314 will begin classes this month. The rest will start their studies at the beginning of 2010.

It has faculties for medicine, finance, management, engineering, science, pharmacology and education. Its aim is to create job and educational opportunities for the Western region.

The campus is 36 square kilometres and was designed by US-based HOK International.

A number of local contractors worked on the scheme, including Saudi Binladin Group, Nesma & Partners and Saudi Oger.

Saudi Arabia is also building the Princess Noura bint Abdulrahman University for Women in Riyadh, King Khaled University at Abha, and the Imam Mohammed bin Saud Islamic University in Riyadh (MEED 27:8:08).