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[LUSAKA] Saudi Arabia and Zambia are to join a growing list of developing nations with universities dedicated to scientific research and teaching.

Paul Zambezi, permanent secretary at Zambia's science ministry says a university is needed because "the country's two public universities [do] not offer courses in science and technology despite being critical in an era of information technology".

The ministry said on 20 April that the new university would cost US$300 million.

According to Zambezi, it will open by 2010, and once it is operational it will be run by a private company. He says the government decided to place the university in private hands after failing to maintain the country's two public universities.

Plans for a private science university were also announced in Saudi Arabia last month.

The King Faisal Foundation aims to launch the Al Faisal University next year. It will focus on engineering, science, medicine and business technology.

The foundation's deputy managing director, Bandar bin Saud bin Khalid Al-Saud, told Reuters news agency on 8 April that the university would help to reform the country's much-criticised education system.

In recent years, plans for science universities have also been announced in Egypt (see Funding boost for Egyptian technology university) and Malawi (see Malawi announces plans to boost science).