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Universities for Expats in Saudi Arabia

Submitted: July 2014

There are 25 main public universities in Saudi Arabia and approximately 27 private universities, and there are also a large number of academic and vocational training colleges. There is a world university ranking site here showing how Saudi universities rank globally. While there is a mixture of public and private institutions, it is the public ones that have the highest reputations and fiercest competition for available places. The public universities are supported by the State and a free to attend. Private universities charge fees, which can be quite large. There is a list of the public universities in Saudi Arabia here.  

Entry into public university is decided on the basis of a report detailing the student’s achievements during their last years at school, and the results achieved in one of two tests; either the General Aptitude Test or the Standard Achievement Admission Test. Scores in the tests in excess of 80% are required for some of the popular courses. Universities in Saudi Arabia offering courses for foreign students generally have criteria for entry based on results in exams taken in the students home country. These generally include ‘A’ level,  International Baccalaureate and US SAT results.    

As an expat, you should be aware that not all courses are conducted in English, so fluency or near fluency in Arabic is a prerequisite for attending some of the university courses in Saudi Arabia. Undergraduate degrees at Saudi universities take anything up to six years to complete, depending on the subject chosen, and are available in a wide a range of subjects.

The most well-known and highest-ranked university in Saudi Arabia is the King Saud University in Riyadh. The campus is spread over more than 2,000 acres, and has some of the most modern facilities of any university in the world, catering for over 30,000 students. It offers courses in a wide range of subjects, and other than Arabic or Islamic subjects, all are taught in English. Foreign students may however have to pass an Arabic exam as part of the admission process, and postgraduates who required to teach (in English) should must have passed the TOEFL exam or an equivalent. The university also offers scholarships to foreign students at both undergraduate and postgraduate level. There are details regarding the conditions attached to the scholarships here and here.

The King Abdullah University of Science and Technology is recognised worldwide as an excellent postgraduate research university and was the first mixed-gender university in Saudi Arabia. Women may associate freely on campus, and are even allowed to drive around its 14 square miles. The university specialises in biological, mathematical and physical science research, with associated engineering. Competition for places is severe with only approximately 3% of applicants gaining admission.

 

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