The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia is a hugely wealthy country which is increasingly investing in its education sector. As home to one-fifth of the world’s oil reserves, Saudi Arabia is a leading educator in the field of oil and gas engineering.
Studying an undergraduate degree in Saudi Arabia will introduce you to this misunderstood and mysterious country. This is a destination perfect for students who want to get out of their comfort zone and experience a different world.
How can you study a degree in Saudi Arabia?
Saudi Arabia is home to 24 government run universities offering diplomas, bachelor and postgraduate qualifications, as well as several private colleges and departments. Men and women are taught separately in different institutions, with degree lasting four years in humanities and social sciences and between five to six years in medicine, engineering and pharmacy.
The entry requirements for being able to study a degree in Saudi Arabia depend on the course, institution and type of study you want to do. Many courses are taught in English, but it is worth having conversational Arabic as this will be useful in your day-to-day student life.
University education is normally provided free of charge by the Saudi government, making this an attractive destination for international students. Some undergraduate degrees in Saudi Arabia will charge international students tuition fees, so make sure you check with your chosen university.
Immigration and visas
Saudi Arabia has one of the toughest and most complicated visa procedures in the world. You will need to submit lots of information and been in constant contact with your chosen university.
Students looking to study a degree in Saudi Arabia will usually need to demonstrate the following:
- You have a confirmed place on a course at a recognised education institution
- You have your original birth certificate
- You have paid all relevant visa fees
- A medical certificate detailing your health from a licensed practitioner
- A police report detailing any criminal record
Approval to travel from your government
It’s important to note that a Saudi Arabian student visa does not permit you to work while in the Kingdom. You should check all details with your home country before applying.
Accommodation and living costs
International students coming to Saudi Arabia will almost always live in private accommodation organised through the university, as halls of accommodation do not exist in the Kingdom. Accommodation in Saudi Arabia is plentiful, ranging from luxurious villas with courtyards and swimming pools, to modern flats.
One thing is key in all housing though – make sure you have air conditioning.
Living costs: Living costs in Saudi Arabia and generally fairly expensive, and you need to factor in the lack of available public transport and the cost of bills. However, if you do decide to brave the Saudi traffic, you’ll find some of the cheapest petrol prices in the world.
Rent per month:
- One bedroom apartment (city centre) – SR1,500 (USD$400)
- One bedroom apartment (outside city centre) – SR1,000 (USD$266)
- Three bedroom apartment (city centre) –SR3,000 (USD$800)
Three bedroom apartment (outside city centre) –SR2,000 (USD$530)
How safe is Saudi Arabia?
Saudi Arabia is a restrictive country and citizens are generally fearful of the police. The strict punishments for crime mean that international students are generally safe and violent crime is low.
However, foreign nationals in Saudi Arabia have been threatened by terrorist organisations, so it’s worth being aware of your surroundings and taking onboard advice from your university.
One thing to be aware of is Saudi driving, which is at best haphazard and at worst outright reckless.
Students should always take care to protect their own personal safety in order to avoid becoming victims of crime. They can do this by:
- Avoiding carrying around large amounts of money
- Staying in groups, especially at night, and never walking alone
- Not making valuables obvious
- Always having a route home planned and never getting into unlicensed taxis
- Being wary of strangers
- Being careful of traffic
Staying in touch
Staying in touch when your child is studying on the other side of the world might seem daunting – but there are ways you can talk regularly that don’t have to involve long distance phone calls and a nasty bill at the end of the month. Here are a few tips:
- Skype – the free video calling service can be downloaded within seconds, and will allow you to talk face to face anywhere you have an internet connection
- Blogging – maybe encourage your child to keep a blog of their adventures overseas, so that other families members (such as grandparents) can keep up to date
- Local sim cards – it is also a good idea for your child to buy a phone with a local pay as you go sim card when they arrive so that they can text and call home without running up a bill
What to do next
Thinking of studying abroad but not sure about where? Check our country guides. If you would like more information on studying in Saudi Arabia, sign up for our Free Application Service and we'll be in touch shortly.