The Saudi university set to drive change for women

The Saudi university set to drive change for women
2 min read
01 October, 2017
Princess Noura University is set to become one of the fist places in Saudi Arabia to teach women to drive, after an announcement that a long-standing ban will be lifted.
Saudi women will be allowed to drive from next year [AFP]
A Saudi university is set to introduce an unorthodox set of lessons next year, but ones that will likely have as much of an impact in the kingdom as prestigious courses such as law and medicine.

As of next year, Princess Nourah University in Riyadh said it will teach women to drive following an announcement that a long-standing ban was to be lifted.

The women's university says it will open a driving school especially for women, likely next year. Saudi state media announced on Tuesday that as of June 2018 women will be allowed to drive in the kingdom.

Saudi Arabia will be the last country in the world to allow women to drive. Princess Nourah University says it hopes to be one of the first to teach women the essential lessons that will allow them to take to the road.

"Princess Nourah University is preparing to set up a driving school in cooperation with the relevant authorities," the university said on Saturday.

"This is the first such announcement following this week's order by King Salman to allow women to drive."

Saudi Arabia's announcement last week sent shockwaves through the kingdom, where the ban on women driving has been deeply ingrained in society.

Although widely publicised attempts have been made by women activists to challenge the ban, the issue has failed to reach the mainstream. 

There are many conservatives who still are against the ban, despite the blessings of the powerful but restricted ulama to allow the new law to quietly pass.

One man who threatened to burn women drivers was arrested on Friday.

Strict "guardianship" rules on women, meanwhile, still remain in place.

Many have suggested the new law is a cynical ploy by Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman to curry favour with young Saudis and boost the kingdom's ailing economy.

Carmakers have taken advantage of the new rule that could potentially create 9 million new customers for them.

Ford sent out a tweet congratulating Saudi women saying "welcome to the drivers seat", which was widely shared in the kingdom. Other carmakers launched similar social media campaigns to pursue the online trend.

The new rule could add $90 billion to the economy, Bloomberg reported. Yet with oil revenues still way below what is needed to sustain the Saudi Arabia's costly welfare state, women - along with men - will have to tighten their seatbelts for the coming years.