Higher studies in Saudi Arabia

Updated 2022-02-23 12:06

Do you wish to study in Saudi Arabia? Do you have kids' schooling in mind? Would you like to enroll, but don't know how? Read below to find out what it takes to study in Saudi Arabia.

Being a student in Saudi Arabia comes with some formalities. Depending on your age, previous education, language abilities, religious beliefs, and income, studying in Saudi Arabia can take many forms.

Saudi Arabia has a vast and rapidly growing educational sector. With over 24 public universities, more than a dozen private universities, several technical/vocational colleges, and an endless number of language-training institutions, there is something for everybody.

The most common areas of study available are computer science, medicine & health, engineering, and pharmacology.

Elementary and secondary education in Saudi Arabia

If you are an expat with a family, one of the most important aspects of relocating is education for your children.

There are three main types of schools in Saudi Arabia: international schools, government schools, and sub-private schools. Some schools cater to the embassies and are giving priority to certain nationalities.

All schools charge a tuition fee for expat students. The tuition fees range from international schools with high fees to sub-private and government schools that are relatively cheaper.

Government schools are mainly for Saudi nationals or Muslim students, in general, while sub-private and international schools are open to expats. That being said, most sub-private education facilities are instructed in Arabic, with a considerable English education incorporated. If your child does not speak Arabic, then these schools won't be of much use. The above-mentioned schools have strictly Islam indoctrinated programs, especially the government ones. With the recent developments in Saudi Arabia - the opening of the country, relaxing the archaic social norms, and the need for well educated, qualified citizens, education is getting more and more contemporary. Still, the government and the sub-private schools operate with separate, gender-based classes, etc. -- some of them being separated from the preschool classes, others later on. Studying and promoting the values of Islam is part of the Ministry of Education's official agenda and vision. Education in Saudi Arabia is compulsory from the age of six years, but the authorities are planning to implement compulsory early education, i.e. the preschool years. It was also decided that female teachers would be employed for the boys' classes at the preschools. Still, only male teachers could handle boys classes of every age.

For English-speaking expats, international schools are the best fit. International schools are very costly but provide the best English-instructed education. You will find an array of schools to choose from; some specialise in specific curricula while others are bilingual and teach courses in both English and Arabic. American, British, and Canadian Curriculum schools are very common. Preschools and kindergartens are also available. When enrolling your child to this type of institution, make sure the school/nursery is operating with a license, either from the Ministry of Education or from the Ministry of social affairs.

With a simple online search, you will find dozens in major cities. However, with the large expat community, despite its decreasing number in the last years, even the capital city, Riyadh, is struggling to provide enough schools for foreigners. Therefore, the construction and opening of new ones are undergoing.

It is wise to incorporate your children's education into your salary package when negotiating a contract with your employer. It is common practice, and you should definitely take advantage of that benefit. Also, if you have more than one child attending an international school, some may offer tuition reductions for additional children attending the same school.

Higher education in Saudi Arabia

Traditionally, a large number of Saudi citizens generally choose to study abroad. However, the government is now heavily invested in developing the education sector, including public and private universities, colleges, vocational training centres and more.

Today, seven Saudi universities are in the top 700 global rankings.

There are several places where you can receive higher education in the country.

First, there are universities — both public and private. Some universities in the country are fully gender-segregated, and some have gender-segregated classes. There are many different fields of study available in Saudi Arabia, from teaching and medicine to Islamic law and veterinary science. A typical university program lasts four years.

Private colleges offer complete degree programs as well as short-term courses. Admissions to private colleges are generally less competitive — but tuition prices are notably higher.

Postgraduate programs are offered on two levels: Master's and PhD Master's programs typically last two years, and a PhD program can take from two and a half to five years. Most PhD programs are fully funded by the government.

Expats who want to enroll in a university in Saudi Arabia shouldn't have a problem finding a program taught in English — especially in private universities. However, the quality of English instruction may vary.

Top universities in Saudi Arabia

King Abdulaziz University is a public university located in Jeddah. Its main faculties are the Faculty of Engineering, Faculty of Economics and Administration and Faculty of Law. Other educational programs include Arts and Humanities, Medicine, Communications and Media, Pharmacy, Environmental Designs and others. King Abdulaziz University ranks 109th in the QS Top University Ranking of 2022.

King Fahd University of Petroleum & Minerals is a public university located in Dhahran. It includes the College of Petroleum Engineering and Geosciences, College of Engineering Sciences and Applied Engineering, College of Computer Science & Engineering, College of Sciences, KFUPM Business School, College of Environmental Design and the College of General Studies.

King Saud University is a public university located in Riyadh. It comprises Science Colleges, Health Colleges, Humanities Colleges, Community Colleges, College of Business Administration, College of Engineering, College of Architecture and Planning and others. King Saud University ranks 277th in the QS University Ranking of 2022.

Student visa in Saudi Arabia

After having chosen your university or other higher education institution, you will have to apply for a student visa. Some of the documents to be produced to apply for a student visa are the following:

  • Proof of your successful registration in a recognised university or higher education institution
  • An original birth certificate (original)
  • Relevant fees
  • A detailed medical certificate
  • An extract of your criminal record
  • Travel authorisation, issued by your government if it applies in your home country

Student housing in Saudi Arabia

You are likely to be given university campuses or student housing in Saudi Arabia. It is one of the perks of studying in Saudi Arabia. If you are not granted student housing, the university administration will thoroughly help you find suitable accommodations.

Useful links:

Saudi Arabia Ministry of Higher Education

King Abdulaziz University

King Fahd University of Petroleum & Minerals

King Saud University

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