Education in Kuwait: Kuwait University to Expand Postgraduate Education

Well they have to reform public education and by public I mean pre-university education. The reform shouldn’t come before establishing what the problems are. In my opinion, the only reason to establish what the problems are, is to have a uniform national exam for the country. You know, it’s alright that you have Kuwaiti public schools, it’s alright that you have British private schools, American or French or what have you. Of course for people who are going to Britain, they have to take exams that are required by the universities in Britain.

Interview with Abdullatif A. Al-Bader, President of Kuwait University

Abdullatif A. Al-Bader, President of Kuwait University

A few things, before the interview starts – what are the important new challenges?

Well the most important right now is to expand on postgraduate education because the university has a high number of students – about 40,800.

Almost 41,000. The majority of those are undergraduates. Of course you have to cater for undergraduates, but to provide them with a better service, you have to expand on postgraduate education and cut down on Kuwaitis going abroad to do post-graduate degrees. They should go abroad to do their post doctorate to gain experience in a different environment rather than going for education. Some people of course go, but it’s not the majority.

For instance the majority of French people don’t go to America to do PhDs although there might be one or two. The majority of Americans don’t go abroad to do PhDs in Europe although I’m sure there are one or two who might be interested in going here or there.

But, it’s the opposite in Kuwait and in the gulf for that matter. I think it’s unhealthy because people should be educated in Kuwait. Of course you have to be exposed to the outside world and gain experience and a different perspective. But in my opinion, that’s the major challenge.

Keep the postgraduates here and keep them from going everywhere. Is it a matter of perception or education?

Perception is the most important thing you see because when Kuwait first started, there were no universities. Even the health care was rudimentary, so we found people went abroad to be treated, to be educated. The situation developed where even if I went to school with you, and you were probably lower than me in class, because you’re French, a professor from a university in France, they think you can do a better job than me. You see, this perception has got to change.

A few years ago, I was asked by the Baylor College of Medicine to represent them in Saudi Arabia to head an institution which Saudi Arabia is paying them to run.

They asked me and I smiled and I said listen, Saudi Arabia gave you the contract, not so that you would bring a Kuwaiti in to run it for them. First of all I don’t want to live in Saudi Arabia therefore I didn’t want to go. Secondly, I don’t think they were serving their purpose by coming to me.

So that’s what I mean. Frankly, I don’t see why Saudi Arabians would go to Baylor College of Medicine in Houston, Texas to start a leukaemia centre. In Saudi Arabia they can always start up a leukaemia centre like any other leukaemia centre. They can always invite professors from all over the world to come and visit. That’s what happens and they can always make use of their experience and that’s the idea of the exchange of professors, which happens everywhere in the world. I mean to tell them to come and establish a centre for me, I don’t think it’s right.

That’s the problem with this part of the world you know. They think that if you get a PhD, let’s say from some university in America, I’m not saying Harvard, I’m not saying Yale, I’m not saying Bristol, any university in America. You go to America and get a PHD from Ball State University in Indiana, but Kuwait University is much better than that, why go all the way to America to get a PhD from Ball State?

You know, when the student comes back, they never mention Ball State, they only mention that they have a PhD from America. These are the problems! I think the perception of all universities in the gulf has to change, and it is changing.

First of all, a question about the governmental priorities. What should the government’s priorities be for domestic reform in education, in your opinion?

Well they have to reform public education and by public I mean pre-university education. The reform shouldn’t come before establishing what the problems are. In my opinion, the only reason to establish what the problems are, is to have a uniform national exam for the country. You know, it’s alright that you have Kuwaiti public schools, it’s alright that you have British private schools, American or French or what have you. Of course for people who are going to Britain, they have to take exams that are required by the universities in Britain.

For people going to America they have to take exams that are required in America and so fourth but there also has to be a national exam that students from every one of those schools should take if they aspire to go to Kuwait University or any university in Kuwait or even if they are getting a scholarship from the Minister of Higher Education to go abroad.

With that you can create the yard stick which establishes the performance of every student and also with that, you can create the yard stick where you can rank every school in Kuwait and give them an indication of where their problems are, should they have a problem and compliment them and reward them if their performance is good and their rank is high. This is where I think it should start and once that’s established, then I think correction and reforms are very easy, should you need to reform.

Then of course we come to university education. Of course, Kuwait University is doing a good job with respect to undergraduate education. As a matter of fact, many of the good graduates have no problem going to any university in the world which is normal. Any graduate of any university anywhere in the world, the good ones have no problem being accepted on higher degrees and the weak ones don’t have a chance.

I mean this is normal but the other challenge of course is that now you have to focus and develop postgraduate education in universities because postgraduate education will strengthen the backbone of the education process and certainly make it much deeper and add colour to it.

You have graduate students anywhere in the world. A good professor can only function if they have a team working with them and the team for professors are their graduate students and post doctorates. Therefore, universities in the gulf should focus on that now and Kuwait University has already started to do that. We have already approved a post doctorate scholarship programme for post docs to come to Kuwait and work with professors in Kuwait and then later of course, they can go wherever they want. We also have a graduate programme to attract good international students to come to Kuwait and when they come, they will not only study towards the degree that they aspire to have, but they will also contribute to the education process by helping their professor with his classes and his education. And through all that work, they gain experience.

Not only will they gain experience and eventually a degree which enables them to work wherever they want, but they become ambassadors for Kuwait University and Kuwait because I always say that the natural progeny of any individual is their children. But the natural progeny of an academic is the doctorate students or the post-docs that they educate and eventually go elsewhere.

As a matter of fact, when you go to look for a job, most universities are not bad in many parts of the world. There are certain universities which have a reputation, but eventually people don’t see where you did your post doctorate. It doesn’t matter who you did your post doctorate with and which university that was.

That person could have a reputation but not coming from a well-known, well they’re all well known, but not coming from the universities that are known to be top universities. So that’s what we aspire to for the education in Kuwait and in particular Kuwait University. In my opinion, once we do that in Kuwait University, as I said we have just started, but we will certainly set the standard for all other universities certainly in Kuwait and all other universities in the area.

Now the private university in Kuwait only does undergraduate education. Frankly I believe that no university can succeed without undergraduate education because in undergraduate education all you do is transfer knowledge to the students. With most undergraduate education you critically analyse that knowledge and you participate in its development.

Through that process, not only do you educate graduate students who aspire to specialise in the area of their supervisor or in the department they are in, but you also strengthen the quality of undergraduate education. In short, that’s basically what I think should happen with education in Kuwait – strengthen public education by establishing a national exam. You strengthen undergraduate university education by focusing on postgraduate university education and post doctorate above all should be focused on.

One of the major challenges in Kuwait is that soon we will have about 300,000 graduates entering the job market. Recently the public sector has been more lucrative for graduates to work for than the private sector. Many people are questioning the ability of the job market to absorb all of these graduates. How do you view this challenge in your opinion?

It’s a problem and it’s a problem not only in Kuwait but everywhere. It’s a problem in Kuwait specifically because everybody wants to go to university and in the West, not everybody goes to university. In Kuwait everybody goes to university and plumbers and all the others come from somewhere else. This is a problem that Kuwait faces.

The university can address it but cannot deal with it, that’s a responsibility of other institutions in the country. We’re trying to tell the students that it’s also important to go into the private sector, not just the public sector. You know the public sector is being saturated and the situation cannot continue forever. In the long run, even if you have a lower income, a lower salary in the private sector, with time if you prove yourself, then the income generated from the private sector will eventually surpass the public sector.

What’s important here really is experience because often, when you have too many people working in the public sector, the places are saturated. Therefore, it’s true to say that you go to work every morning and you come back in the evenings, but the amount of work you do is very little. Experience comes from the work you do, not from the time you spend in a place.

You see that’s why I think unless you have something which is truly needed in the public sector, it’s better to go into the private sector, because many go to the public sector for convenience and for an immediate high income, which the private sector doesn’t want. It doesn’t want to pay a high salary for fresh graduates. But certainly if that fresh graduate proves him or herself, they will certainly make sure they don’t lose him or her by improving their income. This is normal.

What are you doing as an institution to tackle the problem of education?

We’re tackling this problem by introducing new areas. For instance, Kuwait doesn’t have a school of public health. We’ve started it and within a year it’s going to start admitting students. We’re already now introducing a knowledgeable workforce into the country which can benefit the healthcare system in Kuwait.

Kuwait for years has imported nursing staff. Kuwait needs over 20,000 nurses.

Most of them, practically all of them (over 90%) are imported. Now we have to introduce a high quality nursing education with bachelor degrees and higher degrees. With that we can change the perception of that profession in Kuwait and attract Kuwaitis into that area. I think that’s very important and universities are doing that.

Kuwait now is starting up a College of Agriculture. Kuwait is a desert country, but even though it’s a desert country, we should not ignore educating those who are interested in agriculture. Having a College of Agriculture and doing a lot of research into what grows in the desert is very important for Kuwait. I’m sure there will be a lot of Kuwaitis who will be interested in going into that area.

So by establishing all of these new specialist areas, we’ll reduce the concentration of students in traditional areas which Kuwait doesn’t need. Right now for instance, our statistics show a lot of our students go into Arts when Kuwait doesn’t need many graduates in this area. A lot of students do Islamic Studies. The country doesn’t need too many of those- we need to focus on other areas which the country needs.

Science, for instance, is very important and I think it can only be corrected with graduate education, like I mentioned earlier. Universities are trying to address this problem, but it has to not only come from universities, but also from the government. In business there’s a supply and demand. Therefore the government cannot just treat all university graduates in the same way. It must reward those who are needed. Of course I don’t mean changing the status of those who are not needed, but show there are certain areas that are needed and therefore pay more for them.

For instance, you have to pay more for nurses. You change the perception and make them understand that nurses are an important part of the healthcare team. As a matter of fact, the healthcare team will never succeed if nurses don’t do the job according to what has been discussed and decided, so their work is very important. The perception of society has to be changed but also along with that, the financial remuneration cannot be a meagre one, when the financial remuneration of a physician or a surgeon is much higher. That has to be changed also and it cannot be the same as the other areas where the job market is saturated…

Currently there is also a problem with the system of remuneration being based on the degree, not on your abilities.

That’s what I’m saying. The government…the private sector is doing it. If you are able they look after you and pay you more to stay. If you are not doing good work and you don’t have the ability they want, they will fire you. That’s working in the private sector. The government has to do the same.

I’m not saying fire them if you don’t want to them go to protest and get angry, but I’m saying reward those that are needed or demonstrate that they have the ability to do what is needed. Making them equal, by nature people will take the easy route. Why should you compete with anything if the final reward is the same? A lot of people think that way. Others don’t because they enjoy the work but that’s very few people. They make up 10% of the population and you don’t want to rely on the nature of 10% of the population. There are some of us who work hard anyway, regardless of the income.

These issues are well known and I’m sure everybody understands them. It’s very simple to understand and you as a university have a say in it. You are the largest university in Kuwait, I’m sure you have some leverage over policy making in the country. Where do you see the resistance coming from? How come these things have not been reformed yet?

It’s being continuously said by the university but in the final analysis, the university serves as an advisor, not as a decision maker. I think the problem lies with the legislature, the National Assembly and with the government- that’s their responsibility. The private sector is doing its job because every company has a board of trustees which has their responsibility to decide on things – that’s what makes one company more successful than others. But here, the responsibility lies with the legislature and unfortunately these days, I see the legislature focusing too much on giving hand outs to the population.

You have to work for whatever you earn. Part of the problem I just mentioned is that the students for instance, in this university, are being paid. This is abnormal. It’s abnormal when 1/5 of the university budget is given to its students. This is abnormal because if you compare that to any normal university in the world, you will find 60% of their budget comes from the students. Some people think and might say, wow that’s very nice the students are being paid. I’m sure Kuwaiti students are the envy of even Harvard students, but it’s just like a father who spoils his kids.

You give them everything they need as they grow up, tomorrow they grow up and find any work they do is not equivalent to what their father used to give them and therefore they’re not interested in working. This is human nature. You train me to sleep a lot, I sleep a lot. You train me to work a lot, I work a lot. It has nothing to do with who you are, where you come from, it’s human nature – it’s biological.

Here in Kuwait, people come from industrious societies. They come to Kuwait and they don’t work as hard as when they were in their respective countries. I’ve seen them here in Kuwait. They don’t work as hard as in their respective countries because their environment isn’t encouraging them to work hard and this has to change.

It’s not going to change overnight. Nothing changes overnight but we have to talk about it and we have to start implementing it. The university can talk, can teach, can advise, but certainly it’s the responsibility of the public sector and the responsibility of the legislature because they are the ones who come up with the laws which regulate the action of the population.

When you were younger, of course when you were entering the work force, do you feel that today’s young people are less prepared to enter the job market or are less prepared to work?

They are, because at that time we were more enthusiastic. We were young Kuwaitis just starting out and even the non-Kuwaitis working around us had different work ethics- they were hard working. They’re a select group not forced by the nature of their citizenship or background, it’s different. We were hard working and enthusiastic and now it’s slowly changing but unfortunately, not for the better. I think it will reverse, look at the people who went into the private sector. Because of that competition, not only are they doing better, but they’re living better than the people who opted to go into the public sector.

But things are changing and I’m sure that the Kuwaitis will wake up and reverse that process because they are capable of doing that. Look at during the invasion, you did not believe that the Kuwaitis could do it but when they had to do it they did it. Look at Kuwait at the beginning when it first started out. Men were travelling all the time between Iraq, Iran, India and Africa. They were doing all of that, that’s how Kuwait used to be. So when the oil came, things changed of course but unfortunately after the Iraq invasion it was worse but I think it’s changing now. 20 years is enough, it’s going to reverse but you need another 10-20 years to see the effects.

Can you talk a little bit about your expansion strategy and the investments you are making to build new facilities on campus?

You see now Kuwait has started, the idea was to build a new campus for Kuwait University which is now being built in the Sabah Al Salem university city and we’re in charge of it and we’re building it. Of course it started slowly because there were indecisions as to what the final project would be. But now since 2011, it’s moving and it will eventually be finished. I’m of the idea that it should be another university, rather than Kuwait University moving there because first of all Kuwait University already has 40,800 students- almost 41,000. That project, even though it’s huge and is much bigger than what we have in this university, it’s designed for 40,000 students although I’m sure it will handle 1000 students no problem if you compare it to this university.

If that university campus was to become a new university and it attracted 40,000-60,000 students, it would reduce the load on this university. In my opinion, this university with its facilities it should shrink in size – now it’s 5 campuses, it should remain on just 2 campuses. Leave out the medical campus, that’s an independent one which should be either here in Shuwaikh and only in Shuwaikh. It will have 25,000 students, 15,000 postgraduate students and 10,000 undergraduates.

Not only should you encourage research, but also postgraduate education so you will have the elite undergraduate students. I’m sure in no time this university will be the Harvard or the Oxford of Kuwait if not of the gulf. For that to happen, you need to create an environment for quality staff. Quality staff can only come to an environment where they can research and develop. Our research and development needs helping hands and that is the postgraduate students and the post doctorates. With them together, they can improve the quality of undergraduate education and you even create a forum for the brightest students.

Right now, Kuwait University has a wide range of students with the brightest and the lowest at the bottom of the average. The brightest cannot be satisfied if in the classroom you need to cater for the average. If you create a forum where you reduce that, you have the brightest and maybe the highest group of the average.

Then those people will have a much better opportunity, a much better education and with that Kuwait will improve more, because let’s face it in any society in the world, 10% of the population are going to be the most knowledgeable and 10% are the lower part and the rest are in between.

All you want to do is make sure the ones in between are brought up to the upper level. That’s the same with any population and I think in Kuwait we should work hard do that by having the situation we have in Kuwait University where everybody comes in. Yes we’re helping everybody, but we’re not helping the brightest students because we don’t have time to focus only on them.

Something very important to touch upon is the reputation of Kuwait University as a public sector institution. When we talk to the private sector institutions, the private universities, they always tend to imply public sector education is not sufficient in preparing graduates going onto the job market. So is the public education sector in Kuwait not that good? Is that true?

Frankly it’s not true. In fact society’s perception is that private universities are not as good as Kuwait University. I’ll tell you why. To start with, the only students that go there are the ones not admitted into Kuwait University.

They all rely on scholarships, which are known as in Kuwait as internal scholarships- a scholarship from the Ministry of Higher Education. Those people who get a scholarship from the Ministry of Higher Education and who go to private universities don’t get admitted into this university. There’s nothing wrong with that but I’m telling you, you cannot develop education with students who aren’t prepared. If we in Kuwait University are not that happy with some of the people we admit onto our courses, imagine the ones we don’t admit.

Of course, that reflects on public education. We are trusted and I think it can only be corrected later but you’d have to have the national exam first. But that’s not the situation otherwise a lot of students would be attracted to private education. Now, let’s compare private high schools to public high schools. You find many Kuwaitis are going to private high schools. They pay money to go there. Why? Because they find the education is better.

Now you find most of the students in American schools are Kuwaitis, parents are paying for them when they can always let them go to public schools for free. You go to English schools, the majority are Kuwaitis when their parents could have sent them to public school for free but you rarely find parents paying for their children at private universities unless of course they’re not admitted into Kuwait University and they don’t want them to go abroad. They pay for them here or some have scholarships. I know that, I mean there are even some people from…

At the same time you’ve got to admit that the brightest students in Kuwait don’t go to Kuwait University, they go abroad? So there is this perception that something…

Some do. In particular engineering students, even though the college of engineering is very good here and is doing a good job. Very few are going abroad now for medicine. All of them are here at the University of Kuwait. Usually the medical students who go abroad are the ones who are not admitted into our medical school so it depends on the area. In business there are some who go abroad at their own expense and very few go into government if they are admitted here. In other areas yes, I have to admit Kuwait’s strength is in the sciences not in the arts.

Most people take health sciences, engineering, computer science and business administration. Most of them opt to come here. Of course some want to go abroad but they have to be supported by their families. The government doesn’t give a scholarship to just anybody. Those who are supported by their families and who want to go to other places, they can. To my knowledge, the majority of people are coming here. If he people who go abroad get a scholarship from the government, of course they can go but in areas like medicine they don’t, no.

Is your vision for Kuwait University, if you can do anything in the world and there are no obstacles, to create a small performing university that is focused on higher education and PhDs?

This is my vision but of course Kuwait University is not like any university in the world. Most universities in the world are very independent. Kuwait University is a governmental institution and so it’s a little bit restricted. There is an element of identification and independence but it’s still restricted as if your budget only comes from the government, you have pressures from everywhere. You have social pressures directly on you or social pressures indirectly from the legislature or social pressures from even the government.

Even though everybody and the university understand and they exactly follow its mission and objectives, not submitting to all of these pressures, these pressures however still impart a bad reputation on the institution. When a National Assembly member criticises certain aspects, even though it might not be valid, it’s public- it’s public knowledge. The university doesn’t have time or the resources to respond to anybody that talks outside- that’s not its mission. This is happening because it’s a public university and it doesn’t have independence. I’m not saying it has the independence of a private university which is very independent; it doesn’t even have the independence of a state university let’s say in America or wherever.

This is mainly because as I said, these universities, whilst needing the support of the state, they don’t depend heavily on the state – 60% of their income comes from tuition and they also have the luxury of accepting donations and establishing endowments. If you look at any university and you see their endowments, some of them have several billions, some of them have 1 or 2 billion, Kuwait University doesn’t have any endowments. Zero dinars. Then you are depending 100% on the government because it’s a public university and these are the restrictions and the challenges which face whoever runs this university, because you have to do two things: 1) You have to protect the university and the education. 2) You have to be responsive to the demands of society but not by lowering the quality.

You do this by explaining to them why it’s not possible and it’s not an easy task to continuously explain to society that this is not possible because society is dynamic. Today you explain, and the next day it’s always the same issues.

As a matter of fact, many times every year the same parliamentary questions are repeated. Even though you answer them, they are repeated. It makes it a lot easier, all you have to do is look at what’s going on and you find it’s the same, so you pull out the old answer and send it. But they are repeated. These are the problems that the university faces and I’ve said it many times. As a president, when I was in the medical school I have to admit many times visitors were complementing the school and I would smile and say “and it’s in Kuwait. Imagine if we were in an institution in America or in Europe. We would be working wonders if we could survive the restrictions.” Even though a President in Kuwait University doesn’t have to be like a President in an American or a European university, they have to spend their time generating money. I mean we have that luxury, we have to admit, we don’t have the luxury to run around and solicit donations to raise endowments and become more and more independent. We don’t have to do that but we have other problems and these are normal things in life- you have to balance it.

Do they accept it?

It’s being accepted even though I’m waiting for the decision and now in Kuwait the decision will probably come when the campus is finished. Even though, I’m of the opinion that the decision should be made now and a board of trustees and a President for that university should be appointed now as you cannot hire a President and say start a university tomorrow. No one can do that. Any university administration starting from scratch needs no less than 2-3 years, if not 5 to really start anything properly. That’s why I think it’s important that you have an administration that suits the objective and that you plan for implementing that objective from now.

No one, I’m sure even the public would be happy when you say this university is already 40,000. Why move it to a campus that accommodates 40,000 have that as another university and then have 40,000, 50,000 60,000. Automatically you are going to have 100,000. I hope that the country doesn’t need to teach or train 100,000. Then focus on Kuwait University and let it shrink to its normal size. Because in its plans Kuwait University shouldn’t have more than 25,000 students but it is 40,000. Let it shrink to 25,000 and then most importantly have more than 50% of your students as graduate students.

Postgraduate students?

Postgraduate students. If you look at the basics of any university, it’s quality students and quality staff. The other question is what attracts the quality students and the quality staff? The quality students need good professors and good organisation. The quality staff again need good students because it makes their lives easier but that’s not important because the undergraduates are not their focus. The quality staff want to innovate and you might sit here and have all kinds of bright ideas, but you alone cannot implement it.

Who would implement it for you? Those who believe in your ideas. Who are they? Your graduate students. Therefore, you find major universities, for instance rich universities in America like the University of Texas, don’t have a lot of needs. You find a lot of universities compete to attract somebody who has just received a Nobel Prize from their own university to go to another university. You say OK, how do they attract them? Not by doubling their salary even though you might say you will double their salary, but even doubling their salary is not that attractive if they’re well established. For instance if you are well established in Harvard, what would double your salary even mean? However, if you say I will double the size of your laboratories and the amount of graduate students and post doctorates that will work with you, I will provide all the equipment that is needed – they come running.

Of course in Kuwait we have no problem buying, building or furnishing a laboratory with the latest equipment but you have to have the graduate students and the possibility of having post doctorates locally and from abroad. Imagine if you have that. Not only would you attract this good person, but you educate all those people and you improve the quality of undergraduate education. And if you have too many of those…

You need to have graduates who are of a good level.

Exactly, exactly. This comes with time. Recently I met the dean of the Harvard Kennedy School government and we were having dinner and I just asked the question, what makes Harvard, Harvard? I know if we look at history we know how Harvard and Oxford evolved also how Sorbonne in France is more famous for law than medicine. We all know this.

So what did he answer?

He answered with the obvious but I don’t blame him because he doesn’t think the way I think. He said it’s because of the freedom of thought, this is what makes a university etc. all of that is true but that can only come if you have the basics. Then eventually I said I’ll tell you what makes Harvard, Harvard.

Harvard today has 21,000 students. Of the 21,000, there are 4,000 or more staff. Of the 21,000 students, there are 14,000 postgraduates and 7,000 undergraduates.

Therefore the number of postgraduate students attracts good staff and together they contribute to the education of undergraduates. Therefore as the undergraduate level is high and the education is high, Harvard became what it is. You look at Harvard University. You’ll find there are 4,671 academic staff. You look at the students – 21,000. You look at the undergraduates – 6,700. You look at the postgraduates- 14,500. Therefore, the postgraduate students are more than double the undergraduate students and so Harvard really focuses on postgraduate education. Therefore it’s mostly focused on innovation. Together they educate the elite because those 6,700 are not just any students.

Yes of course. Yes, they’re already elite.

You compare that with Kuwait University. I don’t want to compare it with just any university, I want to compare it with my own. Kuwait University- the academic staff- 1560, undergraduates – 38,000 the number of undergraduates is already 3-4 times that of Harvard. My postgraduates- 2,800 in comparison to 14,000 something. These are the basics.

You need to attract more postgraduates yes.

These are the basics of any university. You want to be an average university, you have to have 25%-30% graduate students.

So how do you attract these graduates?

Attracting them is not easy. It’s always the question of the egg and the chicken, it’s not easy but it can happen slowly. You can attract them by attracting a few good staff members with money or with whatever. Then also you can attract graduate students like now for instance, if a graduate student comes to me with 3.5, we give them accommodation and 1800 dinars. I know in Harvard they don’t get 1800 dinars, even though a good student would prefer to go to Harvard even if they got 1000 dollars while I pay 4- 5 times that. There are some good students that would come here. A reputation of a university doesn’t happen in one day. It happens over years but you have to set the basics. These are the basics.

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