Higher education institutions in Saudi Arabia are either public or private. There are 30 registered public universities that offer Bachelor’s, Master’s, and Doctorate degrees. They are managed by the Ministry of Education, which oversees all higher education.
Government universities offer free bachelor’s education for nationals and provide monthly stipends throughout their study period. They also provide full, partial, and paid scholarships for non-Saudi students residing in the country or living overseas. There were around 72,000 international students in Saudi universities during the 2012-2013 academic year.
Private educational institutions consist of both private colleges and universities, which are non-profit. There are around 42 private colleges and 13 private universities. Some private colleges offer bachelor’s programmes and a few postgraduate programmes, while private universities offer bachelors, masters, and doctorate degree programmes. For more information, please visit the Ministry of Education’s website at https://www.moe.gov.sa/.
The higher education levels are a bachelor’s degree, followed by a master’s, then a doctorate. Bachelor’s programmes typically last 4 years, and 5 to 6 years for degrees in professional fields such as engineering and medicine. Master’s programmes are usually 2 years and doctorate programmes can take up to 2 and a half to 5 years. There is no centralised university application system so students will have to apply to each institution separately.
To apply for a bachelor’s degree, applicants will need their high school diploma and transcripts. Those from Saudi secondary schools will need to submit a General Secondary Education Certificate. For postgraduate programmes, institutions normally require a bachelor’s degree, a specific GPA, recommendation letters, and standardized English exam results such as the TOEFL. Most programmes may also request for Graduate Record Examination (GRE) results. The language of instruction may either be English or Arabic, depending on the institution and programme applied to.
Tuition fees vary depending on the institution, course, and programme length. Higher education is free for nationals. Foreign students without funding assistance pay around $6000 in tuition fees for undergraduate degrees and more for postgraduate degrees.
Information for International Students
Students will have to apply for a student visa from the Saudi government. There are no university halls, so students will have to rent private accommodation, preferably through their university. International students must purchase health insurance before arrival.