Keeping the Kingdom: The Politics of Higher Education Reform in Saudi Arabia.
Abstract: As the forces of globalization accelerate, Saudi Arabia is
entering the 21st century with immense pressure on its traditional ruling balance.
Possessing a largely statist economy, a growing youth demographic and the societal
pressures attendant with rapid social and technological change, it is crucial to
understand the possibilities and limits of the Al Saud monarchy's ability to ... read moreadapt to meet
these challenges. This dissertation focuses on the question of how institutional reform
occurs in a monarchy. Is it possible for rigid systems to transition and transform
themselves, short of political upheaval, to be more flexible and responsive? To do so,
this dissertation will examine the trajectory of reform in a key soft institution of the
state, the higher education sector, in Saudi Arabia. The process of Saudi Arabia's higher
education reform and its negotiation of religious, political, and regional actors is
perhaps the most fraught in the Gulf region due to its accelerated pace of development,
deep religious traditions, and the complex political dynamics of the Kingdom. This
dissertation examines Saudi Arabia's higher education reform model through process tracing
and field work in the Kingdom to highlight the institutional and societal mechanisms that
are essential to modernization in the region, the challenges such reform faces and ask
how, in the face of significant political pressure against education reform, reform is
initiated and implemented. The majority of literature on liberalization in the Middle East
has focused on formal political reform, yet Gulf Arab Oil Monarchies have been largely
resistant to democratization, even as they embark on ambitious societal and bureaucratic
reform. How they actually pursue institutional reform and to what degree is a largely
unexplored terrain in political development literature on the Middle East. My research
contributes to this literature by examining the actual bargaining process and political
dialogue surrounding the institutional reform of the higher education sector in Saudi
Thesis (Ph.D.)--Tufts University, 2011.
Submitted to the Dept. of Diplomacy, History, and Politics.
Advisor: Andrew Hess.
Committee: Anna Seleny, and Ibrahim Warde.
Keywords: Middle Eastern studies, and International relations.read less