Higher Education in Saudi Arabia

Comprehensive development works are taking place across the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia in all fields, and higher education is no exception; it is a pillar of the successful development in any country. A royal decree numbered 1/236 in 8/5/1395 AH (1975 AD) stipulated establishing Ministry of Higher Education to foresee executing the national higher education policy. The Minister of higher education is responsible for the execution of the government policy for university education.

University education received generous support that made available new universities, colleges of science and applied fields and huge budget allocations. The twenty one government universities of Saudi Arabia, six private universities and eighteen private colleges, all of them host a plethora of disciplines that are not merely-academic. Ministry of Higher Education is adopting contemporary trends in scientific research and strategic planning.

Those working in higher education have deeply recognized the constant changes facing in the field, from privatization to financing, foreign competition and yet the fluctuating requirements of labor market. Thus they reverted to preparing for the change by future planning and well-thought handling of these parameters; resulting in expansions, self-evaluation, initiating programs and creating organizations that focus on local and global endeavors. Here we present an overview of the most prolific establishments

National Center for Assessment in Higher Education (Qiyas)

Qiyas center aims to provide for a number of assessment tests. General Aptitude Test, a.k.a. Qudrattest, for high school students and graduates is the most prominent and known among these tests. All national universities and higher education colleges, and also some military colleges and technical and vocational colleges, recognize and accept it as a complementary measure besides high school grade in both streams of science and arts. The test quantifies the aptitude that a student would pursue higher education career in specific colleges and majors.
Qiyas assessments had gained acceptance amongst higher education institutions in the Arabian Gulf region and in some countries including United Kingdom and the United States. Ministry makes use of it as a good indicator for scholarship applicants at King Abdullah Foreign Scholarships Program.

National Commission for Academic Accreditation & Assessment (NCAAA)

The commission aims at assessing and accrediting all post-secondary education institutions and programs. Its’ requirements include several criteria of institutions’ in-house assessment, alignment with national framework for qualifications, and complying with quality measures in aspects of programs, student management, institution management and faculty management.
In the last three years, many experts from Europe, America and Australia have aided the commission where it was exposed to countries national models for assessment, accreditation and quality assurance. This inceptional work commenced and was followed by preliminary assessment. The commission will be an information clearinghouse for quality in the higher education institutions whether governmental or private.

Higher Education Statistics

It is an established fact that informed decisions are based on correct and accurate data that portrays the reality and helps making model forecasts and clear vision. Hence the ministry established a unit dedicated to higher educations statistical information.
This statistics unit aims at logging past data items and forecasting the future of all higher education variables. Such a job covers the parameters of admission and its types, majors and their dependencies, educational process evaluation, faculty specializations and professional development. Data monitored also includes enrolled students trends and their related phenomena of failure, drop-outs and graduate volume. The unit is planning to observe more of the particulars of labor market like its needs and the diffusion of higher education graduates in it.

Geographic Information Systems Project

An ongoing project to link geographic information of higher education institutions with the rest of spatial, demographic and urban properties of the country such as commercial, industrial and agricultural use patterns. Land and aerial transport network and distribution data is also added to construct a comprehensive information reserve at the disposal of decision makers.

Saudi Centers Of Research Excellence SCORE

Ministry is adopting a project to support research potentials in government universities, introducing a number of distinguished research centers in terms of management, funding and assessment. This made it possible for a university, especially the leading universities, to focus on one or more research fields and get financing by a ministry contract.

University Academic Associations Development Project

The ministry is working with universities on supporting academic associations by financing to establish headquarters for these associations. This enables them to provide independent activities and to sustain professional endeavors. Academic societies aim at gathering the specialized to discuss issues pertaining to their fields and to collaborate to in ways that serve their fields. It is worthy to note that Saudi universities are host to about 70 academic societies.

National Center for E-Learning and Distance Learning Project

The center work as a preparatory and support center to streamline and facilitate collaborative efforts of universities toward utilizing and leverage of current distance education and electronic learning applications. In the electronic learning program, authoring of a group of preparatory and shared courses is in progress. Such effort paves the way for higher education institutions to be empowered by recent technology to widen their audience. It also provides the basis for capacity development to administer advanced courseware that meets the requirements of assessment, accreditation and skill-building.

Higher Education Research Center

A dedicated research center focusing on higher education research, CHERS, was established on August 1999. CHERS first product was the setting of a framework for national higher education strategic plan. The center have conducted several studies for higher education projects including provincial university systems, pilot studies for establishing educational systems like community colleges, and issues of societal impact including university admission and capacities. Affairs of distance education and electronic learning also fit in the centers’ scope of studies. In sum, CHERS is considered a think tank of ideas, visions and aspirations for the ministry.

Stimulation of Private Education Contributions

Stimulation of the contribution of private education can be summed in a number of procedures, including :

  • Issuing a bylaw for private education that determines the licensing procedures, the sequence, and structure of these colleges
  • Issuing bylaws that define human and material resources for the efficient work of colleges

The government gives land for educational instructions incurring nominal fees , and provides soft loans of up to about 65 million Riyals per higher education college. As the representative of the government, Ministry of Higher Education grants to cover fees for about one third of students in each college or university if it reached the initial quality measures stipulated by the ministry.

Scholarships for Abroad Study

The government allocated for the scholarship program of the Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques more than 7 billion riyals to support applicants to prestigious universities in a number of countries such as USA, Britain, Germany, Canada, Italy, Spain, Holland, Australia, New Zealand, France, Japan, Malaysia, China, India, Singapore, and South Korea. More than eighteen thousand scholarship students over the past years (1425 AH /1426 AH / 1427 AH / 1428 AH ) and more than seven thousand five hundred students under completion of their course of studies. King Abdullah Scholarship Program aims to achieve a distinctive quality deliverables from the global output of higher education in disciplines needed in the country and qualifications including bachelor’s, master’s, doctorates and medical fellowships

For more information : http://www.mohe.gov.sa/en/aboutus/Pages/default.aspx