The University of Sydney was the principal sponsor of the fourth Saudi Scientific Symposium held last week, an event that attempts to forge ties between the scientific and educational communities of Australia and Saudi Arabia.
The event was managed by the Saudi Student Club in Sydney, an organisation sponsored by the Saudi Arabian Cultural Mission which is facilitated by the Ministry of Education of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia.
The event was booked and fully catered by the University of Sydney for an attendance of 150 guests, though the University of Sydney denied any connection with the Saudi Arabian Cultural Mission.
“To the best of our knowledge, the university has not supplied any funds to the Saudi Arabian Cultural Mission, we provided the “Saudi Student Club in Sydney” with the venue and catering to the around 150 guests who are mostly students”, a University of Sydney spokesperson told Honi.
The Saudi Arabian Cultural Mission is a cornerstone of the Crown Prince’s Vision 2030 plan that is attempting to modernise the country when it comes to women’s rights, science and education.
Honi has found that in supporting the efforts of the Saudi Sydney Student club, they have by association supported a student organisation directly operating under the supervision of the Saudi Arabian Cultural Mission and thus directly facilitated by the Saudi Ministry for Education.
In recent months, the Saudi Arabian government has sought to promote a liberal vision of itself in a globalised world. This has emerged at a time when Crown Prince Mohammad Bin Salman maintains many aspects of its guardian system, when the Crown Prince was confirmed by the CIA to be responsible for the murder of journalist Khashoggi and while its government continues to bomb Yemen civilians.
As the Crown Prince develops ties with its Western Leaders to academic institutions in the US and Australia, he facilitates a libertarian, modernising rhetoric that conceals the still severe human rights injustices that exist in Saudi Arabia.
The Australian Government’s direct exposure to the Saudi Arabian government remains limited yet is largely dependent on student sponsorships and academic networks conflated in University settings.