Study in Saudi Arabia

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Updated 2020-04-17 11:56

Do you wish to study in Saudi Arabia? Do you have kids' schooling in mind? Would you like to enrol, 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 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 schooling in Saudi Arabia

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

There are 3 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 large 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, are operating with separate, based on gender, 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 will 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 specify 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 all the 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 is undergoing.

It's important to note that when negotiating a contract with your employer, it is wise to incorporate your kids' tuition into your salary package. It is common practice, and you should definitely take advantage of that benefit. Also, if you have more than 1 child attending an international school, some may offer tuition reductions for additional children attending the same school.

Post-secondary education in Saudi Arabia

This area of education can be a bit complicated for expats for several reasons. Firstly, a majority of post-secondary educational institutions are public government-funded bodies. This means that mostly Saudi nationals can attend. There have been a few exceptions made for expats from certain regions, but this is quite rare. You would need to check with the Ministry of Education to ensure that you qualify to attend.

There is the option of private post-secondary institutions, which charge tuition fees. The tuitions fees are very expensive, and the space available is very limited.

It's nice to know that since the late King Abdullah University of Science and Technology (KAUST) has opened its doors to international enrolment, most of the universities, nowadays, are accepting students from abroad. With state of the art, high-tech facilities and many foreign professors, as well as qualified Saudi ones, the good performance of the universities in the country is not a surprise. Seven of them were ranked  in the QS World Universities Ranking for 2018.

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 while studying in Saudi Arabia. If you are not granted student housing, the university administration will thoroughly help you find suitable accommodations.

 Useful link:

Saudi Arabia Ministry of Higher Education

We do our best to provide accurate and up to date information. However, if you have noticed any inaccuracies in this article, please let us know in the comments section below.