Saudi Arabia is home to many of the leading low tuition universities in the Arab region,and a very popular study abroad destination for international students who come from within the region, and also has loads of excitement to offer students from outside of the Arab region. In addition to enrolling at a growing number of reputable universities, studying abroad in Saudi Arabia gives you the opportunity to learn about the nation’s unique political and cultural environment at first hand, as well as check out some of the country’s greatest ancient archaeological sites, and soaking up plenty of sun.
How to Apply to universities in Saudi Arabia?
Application requirements to study in universities in Saudi Arabia vary depending on the university. Applicants are expected to provide proof of previous academic qualifications and grades, proof of proficiency in English (or Arabic for a few programs) with TOEFL/IELTS, official identification and passport photos.
Tuition fees & living costs
Tuition costs are determined by individual Saudi universities, implying that costs vary widely. In several cases, universities in Saudi Arabia that admit international students provide various scholarships and funding support. At King Fahd University, for example, exceptional master’s students are able to apply for a ‘research assistantship’. This funding support will take care of tuition fees, in addition to providing a monthly stipend for living costs and free furnished accommodation, in return for time spent working in a teaching and research capacity.
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Those who do not receive funding assistance would be expected to pay tuition fees of roughly US$6,000 for undergraduate courses and a bit more for master’s degrees.
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University housing do not exist in Saudi Arabia, so international students are expected to rent out private rooms through their university. The costs of this can be quite expensive,usually between 3,500 SR (US$800) and 4,500 SR (US$1,050) for a relatively small apartment in Riyadh, although costs are cheaper when you move away from the city. In addition to housing, a daily budget of roughly US$50-100 is advised.
Regardless of who you are or where you’re from, if you desire to study in Saudi Arabia you’ll need to apply for a visa in advance visa before been allowed into the country. Obtaining a visa is not so easy because of the tight restrictions for tourists and travelers. Student visa requirements for international students are as follows:
- Admission letter to a degree program at a recognized Saudi university;
- Your original birth certificate;
- A medical report proving good health signed by a licensed medical practitioner;
- Proof of payment for all relevant visa fees;
- A police report disclosing your criminal history;
- Approval for travel from your home government.
Note that student visa holders are not allowed to work while they study in Saudi Arabia, but those who desire to live in the country after graduation will find a good number of employment options.
Another thing to have at the back of your mind is that the validity of your student visa may also be confusing as the dates will be quoted in lunar months, as used in the Islamic ‘Hijrah’ calendar, instead of the calendar used in the Western world. What this means is that the validity of your visa may expire a couple of days sooner than you had in mind, so do well to work out your leaving day with this in mind to avoid getting an overstay issue.
Israeli citizens, or anyone who may have visited Israel, may be denied visas due to the ongoing conflict between the two countries, but that does not mean that being Jewish is a disqualifying factor in itself. Reports of discrimination for those who class themselves as Jewish or atheist on their visa applications has been heard of, but individuals holding no strong religious beliefs or anti-religious beliefs would have little issues.
Saudi Arabia at the moment is one of few countries to fully sign into legislation the Islamic law, and international students who come from Western countries may find it challenging to get used to their customs and rules. The gender division issue is probably the biggest one to get accustomed to; men and women are usually kept separate in several public places and prohibited from communicating or displaying affection (e.g.touching and hand-holding). You will find family areas exclusively for married couples, but expect gender differences to be much more pronounced here than in other countries.
Needless to say, you’ll find many locals who are friendly and happy to chat to Westerners about places to visit within the region. For ladies, Saudi Arabia may present a ton of challenges, especially if travelling alone.Per religious and cultural customs, unaccompanied women are told to adhere to a strict dress code when in the country, and may be prevented from taking part in some activities because of their gender. Another thing to note is that Islamic dress is not legally allowed for non-Muslims, but in more conservative regions it is often expected, with failure to conform likely to cause offense.
Alcohol is not permitted in Saudi Arabia, although you’ll find several cafés and restaurants, drinking bars and pubs are nonexistent.