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Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques King Abdullah inaugurated Sunday the SR20-billion Princess Nora bint Abdulrahman University (PNU), 25 km east of the Saudi capital, amid cheers of over 2,000 students and faculty members. With a capacity to enroll about 50,000 students, the PNU is the largest women-only university in the world and part of an ambitious education plan of the Saudi government.
On arrival on the university campus, King Abdullah was escorted by Riyadh Gov. Prince Salman and Finance Minister Ibrahim Al-Assaf. The three boarded a university train for a tour of the sprawling campus, which sits on a site that exceeds 800 hectares.
"Princess Nora University is a symbol of women's education and women's participation in the building of this nation," said Al-Assaf while giving an overview of the campus, which includes a medical facility, a research center and a library with about five million books and journals.
"A residential area at PNU has about 1,400 villas, and massive hostel facilities to accommodate 12,000 students," said the minister, adding that a sports city for girls is another major attraction besides a service tunnel along the university campus. This education facility has set up major facilities complying with environmental guidelines, said Al-Assaf.
To this end, he noted that the PNU has a solid-waste treatment plant, wastewater treatment facility, warehouses and maintenance workshops.
The inaugural ceremony was attended by several members of the royal family, high-ranking Saudi officials, foreign diplomats and a large number of guests. Prominent among those present on the occasion was Minister of Higher Education Khalid Al-Anqari.
"The presence of King Abdullah today and his consistent support is evidence of his keen desire to educate and train women of this country with an aim to open all avenues for them," said Al-Anqari.
"King Abdullah was greeted by a large number of our female students and faculty members," said PNU spokeswoman Thana Algabashi.
PNU President Huda bint Mohammad Al-Ameel said PNU had become a major symbol of gender equality and women's education in Saudi Arabia. She added that the university campus has modern infrastructure facilities, including a high-tech transport system that links all important facilities on the campus 24 hours a day. The highlight of the transport system is an elevated railway that will facilitate the smooth flow of traffic inside the campus.
Taking advantage of the energy-saving technology, the campus buildings have been designed in a way that use sunlight as a source of light. The 40,000 square meters of solar paneling will provide 16 percent of power for campus heating and 18 percent for air-conditioning.
The new campus includes a 700-bed university hospital, 15 colleges, a central library, a conference hall, laboratories and three research centers for nanotechnology, information technology and bioscience.
Speaking on this occasion, British Ambassador Sir Tom Phillips said: "Today is an important day and I want to pay tribute to the wisdom and leadership of Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques King Abdullah for opening the new campus of the university, which makes it the largest women’s university in the world. The creation of the magnificent campus demonstrates the commitment of the Saudi government to extend educational opportunity to Saudi society."
The British envoy added that "the UK is immensely proud of the academic links which unite our two kingdoms." He said that such collaborations in the field of education benefit students in both countries. There is also the excellent English language teaching being provided by the British Council in Jeddah, Al-Khobar and Riyadh, he noted.