Higher education in Saudi Arabia

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Saudi students at Jubail Industrial College

Higher education in Saudi Arabia is the educational stage that follows the three years of secondary education. Higher education institutions are either governmental institutions or private institutions, and are mainly universities, colleges, and academies. There are three higher educational levels in Saudi Arabia: bachelor's degree, master's degree, and doctorate. Governmental universities in Saudi Arabia offer a free bachelor's degree education for Saudis and a monthly payment for each student during their studying period.[1]

A bachelor's degree in Saudi Arabia takes four years in humanities and social science majors; in medicine, pharmacology, engineering and applied sciences majors, it takes between five and six years of study. King Saud University was established in 1957;[2] the establishment of this university marked the beginning of the contemporary higher education in Saudi Arabia. King Saud University is the first established university in Arab States of the Persian Gulf.[3]

According to the governmental records, the number of Saudi students who registered for higher education in 2006 was 636,000 (268,000 were males, and 340,657 were females) 528,146 of them applied for a bachelor's degree, 9,768 applied for a master's degree, and 2,410 applied for a doctorate. In addition, 93,968 students applied for an intermediate diploma, and 1,953 students applied for a higher diploma.[4]


The entrance to King Saud University, the nation's oldest university, founded in 1957

The Saudi Ministry of Higher Education was established in 1975, to become the entity responsible for managing and laying the foundation of higher education in the kingdom. In 2015, the Ministry of Higher Education was merged with the Ministry of Education and became the Ministry of Education.[5]

The College of Shariah and Islamic Studies in Makkah is the first higher educational institution in Saudi Arabia, it was established in 1949. King Saud University is the first modern university in Saudi Arabia. It was established in 1957 with only the Faculty of Arts and 21 students.[6] Now the university has many faculties including college of Arts, Applied Sciences, Faculty of Engineering, College of Business Administration, Faculty of Computer Science and Information, College of Medicine, Pharmacology, College of Languages and Translation.[7]


There are more than 29 governmental universities, that consist of colleges and faculties that issue certificates and degrees in the BA, MA, and PhD levels in many majors. There are private colleges and community colleges that are a part of the governmental universities. There are also a number of academies around the kingdom, making four governmental technical colleges, 87 intermediate technical colleges, and more than 38 public and private universities and colleges.[1]

Research centers[edit]

Scientific research is one of the most prominent areas that the kingdom support, being one of the ways to shift the national economy from depending on oil to knowledge-based economy. There are more than 106 research centers in Saudi Arabia, several of them are massive such as King Abdulaziz City of Science and Technology (KAST), and King Abdullah City for Atomic and Renewable Energy (KA.CARE).[1]

Higher education for women in Saudi Arabia[edit]

The women's campus for Yanbu University College

In 1976 the Higher Education Center for Women and several colleges of medicine and pharmacology for female students were established.[8] In the late 1970s, the Saudi government offered more seats for Saudi female students to apply for higher education as a way of helping women achieve more at that time. According to the World Bank report, the number of Saudi female students in higher education outnumbered neighboring countries like Jordan, Tunisia, West Bank, Gaza City.[9]

More than 60% of Saudi universities graduates are women.[10] In Saudi Arabia, most women work in the educational sector, there are thousands of Saudi women holding PhDs.[11] In 2008, the first batch of Saudi women graduated from the Faculty of Law. In October 2013, four women were awarded legal licenses to practice law in courts.[12]

In 2009, Nourah bint Abdullah Al-Fayz became the first female minister.[13] Nourah is a former teacher who studied in the United States and was appointed as Deputy Minister of the Ministry of Education. Princess Nora University is the first College for Women in Saudi Arabia and the largest globally, it has 32 campus around Riyadh city.[11] In July 2020, Lilac ALSafadi was appointed as president of the Electronic University, making her the first female president of Saudi university that includes both male and female students.[14]

Studying abroad[edit]

The Ministry of Education provides its contributions to prepare and help Human Resources efficiently, to become a strong competitor on a local and global level, thus providing both governmental and private Saudi universities with qualified personnel.[1]

In 2005, King Abdullah bin Abdulaziz established the Governmental Scholarships Program, to send the Saudi youth abroad to pursue higher education. The program provided fully funded scholarships that covers all students needs depending on the program period, more than 5000 Saudi students earned the scholarship in 2007/2008. Most of the students were studying at universities in Canada, United States, Australia, United Kingdom, New Zealand, Switzerland, France, Germany.

Saudi Digital Library[edit]

The Saudi Digital Library is a massive digital library that contain more than 680,000 electronic book in many fields that support and meet the needs of beneficiaries in the higher educational sector in Saudi Arabia.[1]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b c d e "Education in KSA". Archived from the original on 2019-10-22.
  2. ^ admin (2008-05-14). "Regional consultation on Curriculum Adaptation in the Gulf Region". International Bureau of Education. Retrieved 2020-01-13.
  3. ^ Bashshur, Munir (2004). Higher Education in the Arab States. Saudi Arabia: UNESCO Regional Bureau for Education in the Arab States.
  4. ^ "The Saudi Arabian Economy: Policies, Achievements and Challenges" (PDF).
  5. ^ "دمج وزارتي التعليم العالي والتربية والتعليم في وزارة واحدة باسم"وزارة التعليم"". www.al-jazirah.com. Retrieved 2020-01-13.
  6. ^ "الحركة التعليمية في المملكة العربية السعودية" (PDF). Archived (PDF) from the original on 2017-03-23.
  7. ^ "King Saud University - جامعة الملك سعود". ksu.edu.sa. Retrieved 2020-01-13.
  8. ^ Walaa Hawari (13 May 2020). "Remembering King Khaled". Arab News. Retrieved 1 October 2020.
  9. ^ "Middle East and North Africa - The Road Not Traveled : Education Reform in the Middle East and North Africa". 9 February 2009. Archived from the original on 9 February 2009. Retrieved 13 January 2020.
  10. ^ "Higher Education: the Path to Progress for Saudi Women | World Policy Institute". 2013-07-15. Archived from the original on 2013-07-15. Retrieved 2020-01-13.
  11. ^ a b The World Bank (2007). he Status of Progress of Women in the Middle East and North Africa. Washington D.C.{{cite book}}: CS1 maint: location missing publisher (link)
  12. ^ "JURIST - Saudi Arabia permits first women lawyers to practice law". 2015-12-08. Archived from the original on 2015-12-08. Retrieved 2020-01-13.
  13. ^ "Saudi Arabia appoints first female minister | World news | The Guardian". TheGuardian.com. 2013-09-06. Archived from the original on 2013-09-06. Retrieved 2020-01-13.
  14. ^ "Prof. Lilac AlSafadi is first woman to head a Saudi co-ed university". Saudigazette. 2020-07-03. Retrieved 2020-07-08.