Critiquing of higher education policy in Saudi Arabia: Towards a new neoliberalism

Tariq Elyas, Michelle Picard

Research output: Contribution to journalJournal articlepeer-review

14 Scopus citations


Purpose: The purpose of this paper is to critically examine the impact of 9/11 on education in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. The authors take a historical approach in order to speak more broadly about higher education policy in Saudi Arabia and show how the post 9/11 context of education in Saudi Arabia has led to a new paradigm in educational policy, which has moved away from what McCarthy et al. call "safe harbors" in schooling and education. Design/methodology/approach: The authors first define neoliberalism and then describe its manifestations and impact on the Saudi Arabian educational context, particularly post-9/11. The authors also describe the arguments against adopting a neoliberal approach and suggest a new neoliberalism that addresses the needs of a glocalized Saudi higher educational community. Findings: A neoliberalism paradigm has been adopted by education policy writers and university academics. In addition, the university learners have enthusiastically embraced neoliberalism and globalization. However, the authors argue that the local conditions make a complete transformation to neoliberalism inappropriate and that, instead, a glocalized form of neoliberalism is required to meet national and individual needs and to ensure the buy-in of local teachers/lecturers. Practical implications: This paper has implications both locally and internationally. It provides insight into the changes that occurred in the educational policy of Saudi Arabia post 9/11. This in turn explains how Saudi Arabia's sudden shift in education gears towards the local market needs. Hence, this "glocalized" neoliberalism could hopefully address the needs of local learners and teachers to operate in a globally competitive environment, as well as address the fears of local critics. Originality/value: This is the first paper in the context of Saudi Arabia that deals with a "Neoliberalism approach" in unpacking the educational policy paradigm shift post 9/11.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)31-41
Number of pages11
JournalEducation, Business and Society: Contemporary Middle Eastern Issues
Issue number1
StatePublished - May 2013


  • 9/11
  • Educational policy
  • Glocalization
  • Higher education
  • Higher education policy
  • Neoliberalism
  • Paradigm
  • Saudi Arabia


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