Saudi Arabia, officially known as the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, has one of the fastest-growing and most impressive higher education systems in the Middle East. Thus, it is hardly surprising that thousands of international students choose to enrol at Saudi Arabian universities and colleges every year.
With a colourful blend of modern architecture, ancient sites, and the beautiful Red Sea coast, it’s easy to understand why many want to study and live in this kingdom, at least for a while.
In Saudi Arabia, education is taken very seriously. Over 20% of the annual budget is invested in developing, improving, and maintaining a high standard of teaching at all education levels. This is also reflected in the large number of higher education institutions: there are over 25 public universities and more than 65 private colleges where students can enrol.
Saudi Arabian universities offer scholarships to all international students, regardless of their country of origin. Usually, the scholarship application is included in the university application process. The most substantial scholarships cover full tuition fees and a large part of the monthly living costs.
Students enjoy state-of-the-art resources and facilities, both in terms of studying and living. Universities have the latest technologies necessary for lab work and advanced research. As for on-campus accommodation, at some universities, students even benefit from air conditioning, gyms, swimming pools, and restaurants.
It’s no secret that oil is the key asset that has transformed Saudi Arabia into one of the top 20 economies in the entire world. This has allowed the beautiful Arab country to build an impressive infrastructure, a stable financial system, and to position itself as an attraction for tourists with money to spend.
As an international student, it’s a bit harder to find a job after graduating from a Saudi Arabian university. But this doesn’t mean it’s impossible. Students with specialist skills can find work in fields like IT, banking, telecommunications, or the oil industry.
In 2018, for example, the average salary was around 7,250 EUR per month, making Saudi Arabia the highest paying country among the five Gulf Cooperation Council states.
One aspect noticed by all internationals is the different culture and system of values. Gender segregation is widespread, so girls and boys will study at different universities and live in campuses that are far apart. In terms of infrastructure, you can expect modern facilities and resources.
Most extra-curricular activities take place in schools or on school grounds. You’ll also observe various limitations; for example, all forms of public performances, like theatre plays or concerts, are prohibited.
International students can enrol in various English-taught degrees. The following are only some of the most popular study options:
These are some of the top-ranked universities in Saudi Arabia:
Each university in Saudi Arabia has its own admission system on their website that allows future students to apply for and enrol in their Bachelor’s or Master’s degree programmes. So, once you select the university of your choice, you can go through their application and submit your materials there.
Here are some documents you might need to submit during your university application:
This kind of courses enables degree-seeking students to get an extra educational boost just before they start their Master’s degree or other post-graduate degree programmes. Try a pre-MBA, pre-Law, or pre-Medicine programme, as well as any other foundation or preparation courses that will allow you to study in the degree programme of your choice.
If you’re attending a degree programme in Saudi Arabia, you will need to prove that your language skills are good enough to participate in the classes and understand the lectures. These courses will also prepare you for any of the English-language tests that universities require.
To study in Saudi Arabia, you’ll need to provide proof of your English language proficiency. The certificates generally accepted by Saudi Arabian universities are:
Still, you should always check your university’s website to be sure what the exact requirements are.
Let’s take a closer look at the tuition and living expenses in Saudi Arabia:
Tuition ranges wildly at public universities in Saudi Arabia. Study programmes can cost anywhere from 0 (yes, completely free!) to over 22,000 EUR per academic year. At some institutions, tuition is calculated using the total number of credit hours — very similar to the American education system.
Like in most other countries, private universities are more expensive.
Depending on the type of accommodation and your lifestyle, you will need anywhere between 650 and 1,000 EUR to cover your monthly expenses. Here are some of the average costs of living in Saudi Arabia:
Check out other living expenses in Saudi Arabia.
If you've decided to study a Master's degree at a university in Saudi Arabia, you will have to gather the right documents to prove that you fit the university requirements. Provide complete personal information, previous qualifications, financial information, and a personal statement.
To apply to a university in Saudi Arabia you will likely be asked to provide some of the following documents:
Depending on the subject or specialization of your chosen Master's, you might also be asked to provide scores for additional tests like the GRE, GMAT or LSAT. Check if your programme requires any of these, or others.
The list of documents depends on the specific requirements of universities in Saudi Arabia so you might be asked to include additional documents. It’s also likely you’ll have to provide official English translations of your documents, or translations in the local language.
Because you’ll study an international degree in English, you'll have to present a language certificate. Some popular options for international students are IELTS, TOEFL or C1 Advanced language certificates. You’ll have to meet a minimum language score set by the university, and your test scores shouldn’t be older than 1-2 years. If you don’t meet the minimum language requirements, you will have to improve your skills and scores by taking an English preparation course.
The deadlines for applying to a Master's in Saudi Arabia are usually during summer (June-July), or in winter (January-February). Keep in mind that some universities don’t have application deadlines, which means you can apply whenever you are ready.
To avoid delays or missed deadlines send your required documents with plenty of time in advance.