About Saudi Arabia
Saudi Arabia, officially known as the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, is the largest Arab state in Western Asia by land area and the second-largest in the Arab world. Saudi Arabia has the world's largest oil reserves which are concentrated largely in the Eastern Province. Oil accounts for more than 95% of exports and 70% of government revenue, although the share of the non-oil economy has been growing recently. This has facilitated the transformation of an underdeveloped desert kingdom into one of the world's wealthiest nations.
The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia is an Arab country located on the Persian Gulf and is the largest country in the Middle East, occupying 80 percent of the Arabian Peninsula. The country has borders with Iraq, Kuwait, Jordan, Yemen and Oman. Most of the country is desert or semi-desert, although the west coastline along the Red Sea has forested areas. Saudi Arabia has a lengthy history due to its strategic location near major trade routes and is best known as the birthplace of the prophet of Islam, Mohammed. Major cities in the country include Mecca and Medina, where millions of Muslim pilgrims visit each year. With 25 percent of the world’s oil reserves, the country is one of the wealthiest in the world and contains significant modern infrastructure. The currency is the Saudi Riyal.
Saudi Arabia has mostly a desert climate, with high temperatures during the day and lower temperatures at night. In Riyadh, the average high is 43 degrees C and the average low is 29 degrees C in July, while the average high is 19 degrees C in January, with an average low of 11 degrees C. The record low in Riyadh is -1 degrees C and the record high is 53 degrees C.
Music and dance both have strong traditions in Saudi Arabia. The country’s national dance is Al Ardha and is a sword dance based on Bedouin traditions. Belly dancing for women is also very popular. Sports are also very popular, especially soccer and basketball.
Cost of Living
The cost of living in Saudi Arabia is fairly high. Even on a tight budget, a student will likely require at least $US 1,500 per month. Student visas do not grant employment rights.
Students who are citizens of Gulf Cooperation Council nations do not need a visa to study in Saudi Arabia; however, all other students must have a visa.To apply for a visa, a student must have a recent police reports and a medical report certifying the student has no contagious diseases. Students with families must also provide marriage and birth certificates for family members. Students can apply for visas with the Saudi embassy or consulate in their home country. Once students have a visa, they should pay particular attention to expiration dates, as the Saudi system uses the lunar calendar instead of the Western solar calendar.
Study in Saudi Arabia
Higher Education in Saudi Arabia
Higher education in Saudi Arabia is consistent with the US higher education system, but modified to accommodate Islamic traditions and customs. The first university, the King Saud University, was founded in Riyadh in 1957. The Ministry of Higher Education oversees all higher education in the country, with a particular focus on scientific research at the government universities. More than 200,000 students are currently enrolled at Saudi universities and colleges; about half of the students are women.
Why Study in Saudi Arabia?
International students will find a welcoming environment in Saudi Arabia, and the government even provides special scholarship programs specifically for non-Saudi students. Saudi Arabia is one of the best places in the world for master’s programs in Islamic studies. Studying in the country also provides a full Arabic cultural and language immersion for students not from the Middle East or for non-native Arab speakers. In addition to Islamic studies, modern Saudi institutions provide a wide variety of master’s degree programs in art, science, engineering, agriculture, medicine, education, computer science and information science. Many master’s degree programs are taught in English, especially those in technical areas such as engineering.
The higher education system includes 21 government universities, 19 teacher’s colleges for men, 80 teacher’s colleges for women, 37 colleges and institutes for health, 12 technical colleges and 24 private universities and colleges. Universities and colleges offer graduate programs that include both master’s and doctoral degrees. Private universities and institutions are non-profit organizations that complement government universities. Most government universities are general universities, but some specialize in certain areas such as petroleum and health.
Tuition and Program Duration
Citizens of Saudi Arabia are provided with free education and books. Many international students study for free as well. For example, all students admitted to the King Abdullah University of Science and Technology are provided with a fellowship that covers tuition, housing, medical and dental coverage, and about $US 30,000 annual living expenses.
The first semester classes generally begin in early September and run through early December, followed by final exams. The second semester begins in early February and runs through early May, followed by final exams.
There are many opportunities for post-graduate employment within Saudi Arabia, both for citizens and international students. Saudi Arabia employs roughly 8 million foreign workers, although most of those are in positions of manual labor. Still, there are many opportunities for graduates with master’s degrees in the petroleum and financial industries. Other strong industries for international workers include information technology, healthcare, teaching, construction and telecommunications. International students wanting to remain in Saudi Arabia for employment must first find a job, at which point the potential employer will apply for the appropriate work permit.
Saudi Arabia requires all foreign nationals to have medical insurance. Students not covered by a health care system in their home country will need to purchase private health insurance before arriving in Saudi Arabia.
Saudi National Day is September 23, when the country celebrates the founding of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia.
Saudi Arabia is still largely a cash society and, outside of large hotels and malls, credit cards are not widely accepted. However, ATMs are widely available.
Within cities, taxis are the best means of transportation.