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Masters Study in Saudi Arabia – A Guide for 2024

Written by Hannah Slack

Saudi Arabia has one of the fastest growing higher education systems in the Middle East. Well known for its mineral resources, the country has become a hub of research for oil and fuel engineering. Home to Mecca and the origins of the Islamic faith, Saudi Arabia also offers excellent opportunities for those interested in history and religious studies.

As Saudi Arabia follows Islamic laws and beliefs, studying here can provide a rich and interesting cultural experience. With recent investment from the government in schooling and universities, its institutions are increasingly visible in the global rankings.

This page explains what its like to study a Masters in Saudi Arabia, the opportunities available, how to secure funding and how to apply for postgraduate courses.

On this page:

Postgraduate opportunities in Saudi Arabia – what’s on offer for 2024?

Saudi Arabia’s rich economy and rapidly developing higher education system makes it an excellent place to study a Masters.

Whether you’re interested in cultural studies, fuel engineering, or anything else, there are plenty of courses available to help aid your career goals.

Here are just a few more reasons why you might want to consider studying a Masters in Saudi Arabia this year:

  • World-class institutions – Sustained investment has seen five universities listed in the world’s top 500 for 2024 according to the Times Higher Education rankings.
  • Increased funding opportunities – Efforts to become a worldwide centre for high-technology research initiatives have created schemes such as Aafaq and Vision 2030. These aim to boost higher education opportunities and place Saudi Arabia among the top 10 countries in the Global Competitive Index.
  • International Community - Almost 65,000 international students chose to study at Saudi Arabian universities in 2023 and the number continues to grow.
  • Employment prospects - Due to the country’s abundant fuel resources there are many graduate job opportunities in the oil and gas engineering sectors.

Masters Study in Saudi Arabia - Key Details for 2024
Universities 43
Oldest University King Saud University (1957)
International Students 64,800
Course Length 1-2 years
Typical Fees 0-200,000 SAR (USD $0-$53,320)
Academic Year August/September to June

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Saudi Arabian universities

Similar to the UK higher education system, students are required to have completed a Bachelors degree in order to apply for a Masters.

There are three different types of Saudi Arabian universities:

  • State universities – These universities are funded and governed by the Ministry of Education, though they retain academic autonomy.
  • Private universities – Registered private universities receive no direct public funding.
  • Private colleges – Also funded by the Ministry of Education, private colleges offer a range of specialist Masters courses.

Hijri Islamic Calendar:

Be aware that when you are searching for your Masters in Saudi Arabia some universities and Government websites will use the Hijri Islamic Calendar.

Institutions for female applicants

As Saudi Arabia adheres to Islamic law and tradition, men and women are not taught in the same classes at all universities. Where this is the case, women view lectures given by male professors through a monitor.

36 Saudi higher education institutes enrol women, three of which are women only. The Princess Nora bint Abdul Rahman University is famous for being the largest women’s only university in the world.

Make sure to check directly with your chosen university as to whether female applicants are accepted and how the course is organised.

Saudi Arabian university rankings

Increased funding has enabled Saudi Arabian universities to rank consistently higher in all three major university league tables.


Top 5 Saudi Arabian Universities in 2024
University THE 2024 QS 2024 ARWU 2023
King Fahd University of Petroleum and Minerals 201-250 =180 401-500
King Abdulaziz University 251-300 =143 151-200
Imam Mohammad Ibn Saud Islamic University 401-500 =595 -
King Saud University 401-500 =203 101-150
Prince Sultan University (PSU) 401-500 - -
Information in this table is based on the latest Times Higher Education World University Rankings, QS World University Rankings and Academic Ranking of World Universities. Visit their websites for more information.

Do rankings matter for Masters degrees?

International rankings use all sorts of metrics to assess universities and they aren't all equally relevant to postgraduate study. That's why we've put together a guide to university rankings for Masters students.

University cities

Saudi Arabia has three main university cities, each known for its own character.

  • Riyadh – The capital of Saudi Arabia, Riyadh is one of the world’s wealthiest cities. You will find the city to be culturally intriguing as it contrasts economic and business development against traditional Islamic values and architecture.
  • Dammam – Home to one of the country’s top institutions, King Fahd University, Dammam is the capital of the Eastern Province. Not only is the city a centre of judicial and administrative duties, but it is also at the heart of the oil trade.
  • Jeddah – Known for its shopping districts and restaurant culture, Jeddah offers a cosmopolitan environment. Many enter the country here during their pilgrimage to Mecca and so the city often plays host to a variety of travellers.

Other prominent university cities include Medina, Mecca and Thuwal.

Masters degrees

Saudi Masters programmes are made up of modules worth 36 credits. Students are required to take a mix of core and elective modules to make up their degree. Many courses will also require you to complete a Masters thesis, though sometimes this is optional.

Programme length

Most Masters in Saudi Arabia are taught degrees and usually take between two years. Usually institutions only run for two semesters, from late August to June. But many Masters courses (usually those one year in length) require students to also study during the summer semester.

Examination and defence

Assessments for taught modules will be set by the institution and could include a mix of coursework and exams.

If your course involves a research element you may be required to complete a thesis, worth on average 12 credits. As with a PhD (but unlike some other Masters degrees) you will then have to complete an oral defence in front of a small panel of academics and faculty members.

For some courses you will not have to complete a thesis and instead may be offered additional taught courses or a research-based internship. Make sure to check the course structure and examination process with your faculty.

Fees and funding

Many Saudi Arabian Masters degrees automatically come with a full or partial scholarship, coving tuition, housing, healthcare, and sometimes travel for international students. This makes Saudi Arabia particularly appealing for both home and abroad students.

Fees

Tuition fees are set individually by the universities and will often range between 22,000- 200,000 SAR (USD £5,865-53,320). Both the government and private institutions offer a considerable amount of funding incentives.

Living costs

With a few exceptions, most Saudi Arabian universities do not have student halls and so unless accommodation is included with part of a scholarship you will have to rent privately. Some universities allow you to organise your accommodation through them. Make sure to check if your chosen institution has any guidance for renting.

Saudi Arabia is a relatively affordable place to live, with the average person spending around 2,785 SAR (USD $655) per month (excluding rent) according to crowdsourced data from Numbeo. The average rent for a one-bedroom, city-centre apartment in Saudi Arabia is around 1,683 SAR (USD $447).

Prices in Saudi Arabia.

Scholarships and funding

Scholarships are offered as either full or partial benefits. Partial scholarships will usually cover tuition or living costs. The amount offered will range depending on your institution and course. Most scholarships are secured through the institution of application.

It is also possible for Saudi Arabian studens to obtain funding through a Research Assistantship. Some universities may offer research assistantships to students working at an exceptional level. These will often cover tuition fees, free accommodation and a monthly stipend for living costs. In return you will be expected to complete teaching and research work for the university.

There are two types of government scholarships available for international students:

  • Internal – Internal scholarships are available for non-Saudi students who already have legal residency.
  • External – These scholarships are for students living outside of Saudi Arabia.

To apply for a government scholarship, you must be between the ages of 17 and 30, have no other scholarship from within Saudi Arabia, pass a medical examination and hold a letter of recommendation. Applications are submitted through your chosen university. For more information visit the Saudi Arabian Ministry of Education website.

Applying for a Masters in Saudi Arabia

To apply for a Masters degree you have to go directly to the individual universities. International students should note, however, that you are not able to apply for health and medical specialties (places on these programmes are currently reserved for Saudi citizens).

Entry requirements

Requirements will vary depending on the course. Some key documents you may be asked to supply are:

  • Proof of completion for a Bachelors degree in a related field to your chosen Masters course.
  • An academic transcript showing a level of excellence determined by the university of application.
  • Proof of proficiency in the language your course will be taught in. This might involve taking an English language test (check with your institution which one is preferred) or completing a diploma in Arabic which is sometimes offered by the universities.
  • Official identification and at least one passport photo.
  • Reference letter from an employer or university supervisor.
  • A statement of purpose and CV demonstrating your career objectives and relevant experience.

Some universities have no deadline for Masters applications and so you are able to apply all year round. Others will have deadlines in either June-July or January-February.

Student visas

To obtain a study visa, applicants must have a scholarship offer from a Saudi Arabian university.

Further documentation required will be:

  • Confirmed place at your university
  • A birth certificate
  • A medical certificate proving good health
  • Proof of payment of any visa fees
  • Letter of approval to travel from your home government

Make sure to check the dates on your student visa as they will follow the calendar

Upon arrival students may obtain a free residence permit from the embassy by submitting a letter from the passport department in their university of admittance. This will cover you for the duration of your studies.

Next steps

Because of Saudi Arabia’s fuel resources there are many postgraduate employment opportunities in oil and engineering fields. If you have been accepted for employment you will be able to obtain a work permit and new residence permit. Unlike other countries, the working week in Saudi Arabia is Saturday-Wednesday, with Thursday and Friday being the weekend.

Additionally, you might want to consider PhD study which is offered on full scholarships. More information can be found in our guide to PhD study in Saudi Arabia.

Laws and regulations

As the country abides by Islamic traditions and laws it is important to know some key points about life in Saudi Arabia.

  • Men and women do not mix in public places and open displays of affection are not permitted
  • Women must dress modestly
  • Consumption and possession of alcohol is not permitted
  • Breaking laws against drug use and trafficking can incur the death penalty

For further information we recommend that you check the advice issued by the UK Government or your home country.

Search for a Masters in Saudi Arabia:

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Living in Saudi Arabia – Postgraduate Guide

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Last updated: 08 November 2023