Universities in Riyadh

university in Riyadh
Updated 2022-02-23 11:29

Saudi Arabia may not be one of the most known education destinations. In fact, a lot of Saudi nationals do prefer to study abroad. However, in recent years, the government of Saudi Arabia has invested heavily into developing its education system and attracting international students. And if you plan to build a career in the Middle East, getting a degree from one of the country's leading universities can definitely be a good start. 

Higher education in Saudi Arabia

The system of higher education in Saudi Arabia is quite similar to that of most other countries, and you will find both public and private education establishments here.

Saudi Arabia is home to 28 public universities and 10 private ones. Some of the most popular fields of study include economics, medicine, veterinary science, engineering, teaching and Islamic Law.

Private colleges tend to have higher tuition costs but less competitive admissions. They offer both long degree and certificate programs and short-term courses.

Note that some universities in Saudi Arabia are fully gender-segregated and offer instruction only in Arabic.

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.

Master-level programs in Saudi Arabia are available in a variety of fields, including medicine, business, architecture and more. Most programs are two years long — but the exact length of the course will depend on whether you are enrolled in the program on a full time or part-time basis. To apply for a master level program, you will typically need a bachelor's degree in a related field, a high GPA, recommendations and an English language proficiency test like TOEFL.

PhD level programs can take from two and a half to five years. One of the main benefits of enrolling in such programs in Saudi Arabia is that the cost of your tuition will be fully funded by the government. To enroll in a PhD level program, you will need to have a master's or bachelor's degree (depending on the program you are applying for), Graduate Record Examination (GRE) scores and a TOEFL certificate.

Universities in Riyadh

There are 16 universities in Riyadh offering a variety of programs. Here are the city's most popular universities:

King Saud University

King Saud University is the first public university in Saudi Arabia, founded in 1975 by King Saud bin Abdulaziz. Over 40,000 students are studying at King Saud University — about 7% are international students. There are a number of programs offered at the university, including degree programs in natural sciences, the humanities, professional studies and more. It's especially highly rated for its programs in medicine. There are two languages of instruction: English and Arabic.

Prince Sultan University

Prince Sultan University is a private university founded in 1999. It's the first private university in Saudi Arabia offering both bachelor and master degree programs in various fields. The university includes the College of Business Administration, College of Engineering, College of Law, College of Humanities and College of Computer and Information Science.

Alfaisal University

Alfaisal University is a non-profit private higher education university founded in 2007. It's one of the smallest universities in the country, recognized by the Ministry of Education of Saudi Arabia. The university offers bachelor and master degrees in several fields of study. It is one of the few international universities in Saudi Arabia, and international students can apply for enrollment here. The admission rate is around 60-70%.

Al Yamamah University

Al Yamamah University is a private university that opened in 2001. It offers programs in economic and social fields and aims to be a leading training institution for academic research. It is also the first university in the country known for its highly effective educational programs in entrepreneurship. Al Yamamah University includes the College of Business Administration and Computing and Information Systems as well as Community Service and accepts both male and female students.

King Saud bin Abdulaziz University for Health Sciences

King Saud bin Abdulaziz University for Health Sciences was established in 2005 by King Abdullah bin Abdulaziz. It is one of the first government universities in Riyadh, and Saudi Arabia, specializing in medicine and health sciences. There are seven colleges at the university, including the College of Medicine, College of Dentistry, College of Pharmacy, College of Public Health, College of Health Informatics, College of Applied Medical Sciences, College of Nursing, College of Science and College of Health Professions. International students are welcome to study here.

Dar Al Uloom University

Dar Al Uloom University is a private university established in 2008. It offers a variety of programs for both local and international students with 15 available majors: Medicine, Computer Engineering and Information Technology, Business Administration, Architectural Engineering, Law and more. There is a women's department at the university for female students.

Riyadh College of Technology

The College of Technology in Riyadh opened its doors in 1983 and is the first technical college in the Kingdom. The educational programs at the university are aimed at preparing technical professionals. It is one of the most highly-rated educational establishments in the city and ranks among the top five universities in the country.

The education of women has been receiving quite a bit of attention in the Kingdom in the last decade. There are six universities in the country accepting exclusively female students. These are the College of Education for Liberal Arts Majors, the College of Education for Scientific Majors, the College of Education for Teacher Development, the College of Social Services, the College of Home Economics and the College of Fine Arts.

Costs of studying in Saudi Arabia

Evaluating the cost of studies in Saudi Arabia is rather complicated as it depends on many factors: the educational establishment you study in, the courses you take, the length of study, your options for financial aid and more. However, a lot of international students do have access to either partial or full scholarships, and, overall, the cost of study in Saudi Arabia can be much lower than in most developed countries.

Entry requirements in Riyadh universities

Applying to any university in Riyadh is quite straightforward. You will need to complete an application at the university's website and attach your high school degree and transcripts. In some cases, you will need to submit additional documentation to prove aptitude —this depends on your high school program.

After you've been accepted to the university, you are likely to receive student housing paid for by the university: either on or off campus. If the university doesn't provide housing, they will generally help you to find suitable accommodation close to your place of study.

If you choose to search for accommodation yourself, make sure to check our article on Accommodation in Riyadh to help with your apartment hunting.

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


You cannot work in Saudi Arabia on a student visa. To be legally employed in the country, you will need to have a job offer from a local employer, who will then go on to apply for an Iqama (residence permit) on your behalf. If you try to work in Saudi Arabia illegally and get caught, the penalties can be quite severe. You may have to pay a fine of up to SAR 10,000 and are also likely to be arrested and deported.

Internships in Riyadh

Finding an internship in Saudi Arabia can be quite complicated, as many of these positions are often reserved for Saudi nationals. However, if you are determined, you may try your luck with some of the big local companies working in healthcare, education, finance, manufacturing

information and communication technology, media and more. While there are many international companies operating in the Kingdom, the internship positions here would typically go to Saudi nationals — so applying to local companies comes with higher chances of landing an internship position.

Also, pay attention to the booming projects in the framework of Vision 2030 while looking for an internship. You may view internship offers on the Internet thanks to various specialised job websites and other professional social networks like LinkedIn and Viadeo. You may as well register with a recruitment agency.

Social life as a student in Riyadh

Making friends with fellow international students during your time in Riyadh shouldn't be a problem. However, you need to be aware of some social rules and norms to follow when part of Saudi society. For instance, some universities and a lot of classes are gender-segregated and unmarried people are not supposed to spend time alone with someone of the opposite sex.

Building relationships with Saudi nationals may be a bit more complicated. As the family has a far higher status in Saudi Arabia than in most western countries, a great deal of mingling happens among relatives. In any case, you should endeavor to meet different people that aren't your adjacent neighbors. University is thus an excellent way to develop your social circle. Attend events with your friends and plan outings together to make your stay a memorable one.


The first thing to do before moving to Riyadh is to get international health insurance as you will not be covered by the local healthcare system.

As we've mentioned at the beginning of this article, Saudi Arabia may not be a top destination when it comes to higher education. However, studying in the country comes with a variety of perks. As most of Saudi Arabia's workforce is composed of expats, you will have a very high chance of landing a job offer upon graduation. Working in Saudi Arabia can be quite lucrative as expats are generally offered very generous remuneration packages that include accommodation, health insurance, home flights, bonuses and more. Plus, there is no income tax in Saudi Arabia, which makes it a great place to earn and save.

Useful links:

Working in Saudi Arabia

Student life in Riyadh

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