Higher Education in Saudi Arabia*

The post secondary system of education in Saudi Arabia is, to a certain degree, similar to the educational system of the United States. The patterns and procedures of these educational systems have been adopted in accordance with Islamic systems, traditions and customs.
In 1975 a segment of the Ministry of Education became a separate entity, and was renamed the Ministry of Higher Education, with the purpose of dealing exclusively with higher education. Among its responsibilities were :

  • Proposing the establishment of higher educational institutions and authorizing them to offer special programs in accordance with the country’s needs.
  • Creating and administering universities and colleges in the Kingdom.
  • Raising the level of communication and coordination between institutions of higher learning and coordinating with other governmental ministries and agencies in terms of their interests and needs in higher education.
  • Representing the government abroad in all educational and cultural affairs, through various cultural and educational offices distributed over 32 countries.

The Higher Education Council is the supreme authority for post-secondary education affairs with the specific task of supervising and coordinating its institutions, with the sole exception of military education. Some of the Council’s responsibilities are: directing university education in accordance with policy, supervising the development of university education in all sectors, coordinating among universities especially in the field of scientific departments and degrees, encouraging research, formulating rules and regulations for compliance by all institutions of higher learning.
Higher education in Saudi Arabia has undergone a tremendous growth over the last five decades. The higher education system, which is based on diversification has expanded to include :

  • 21 Government Universities
  • 18 Primary Teacher’s Colleges for men
  • 80 Primary Teacher’s Colleges for women
  • 37 Colleges and Institutes for health
  • 12 Technical Colleges
  • 24 Private Universities and Colleges

The universities and colleges offer graduate studies programs which grant master’s and doctoral degrees in some fields. Like other elements of the educational system in the Kingdom, higher education is designed and evaluated in relation to the overall national development plan, and is considered essential for fulfilling the potential of the Kingdom’s greatest resource- its people.

About Government Universities

The Ministry of Higher Education was established in 1395H (1975G) to be responsible for supervising, planning and coordinating the Kingdom’s requirements with regards to the higher education, with the aim to prepare national cadre specialized in administrative and scientific fields, to help achieve the national development.

The higher education has, enthusiastically, developed in most of the scientific fields. There are, now, 24 high-capacity universities, geographically distributed in the Kingdom regions. All these universities are linked to the Ministry of Higher Education, but enjoy a high level of independency in both administrative and academic scopes.

The Ministry also gives special care to the affairs of the Saudi students who are studying abroad, distributed in different countries and scientific fields that are necessary to fulfill the requirements.

Regarding the scientific research, the Ministry, thru supervision and coordination with the universities, gives very special care to the scientific research, which is an important source for the scientific and civic development, and as it is part of the functions and tasks of universities. The Ministry supports specialized research institutes and centers, and conducts scientific symposiums and conferences, which enables the academic staff of the universities to participate in specialized scientific activities, and learn about the updates in their fields.