Higher Education in Saudi Arabia

By Saha, Neete | Journal of International Students, July/August 2015 | Go to article overview

Higher Education in Saudi Arabia


Saha, Neete, Journal of International Students


Higher Education in Saudi Arabia Smith, L. and Abouammoh, A. (Eds.) (2013). Higher education in Saudi Arabia: Achievements, challenges and opportunities. New York: Springer, 190 pp. $106.23, Hardcover. ISBN-13: 978-9400763203

Institutions in the United States have been popular among Saudi students seeking post-secondary degrees. In fact, Saudi Arabia is one of the highest represented home countries of international students in the US. 44,566 Saudi students enrolled in US colleges and universities for the 2012-2013 academic year, and enrollment numbers for Saudi students have been increasing tremendously over the years (IIE, 2013). Higher education in Saudi Arabia: Achievements, challenges and opportunities (2013), edited by Larry Smith and Abdulrahman Abouammoh, provides insight into this growth. This book suggests that Saudi Arabia wants to improve its higher education system, the goal being to "...achieve 'world-class' standards" (p. 5). To accomplish this, Saudi Arabia has invested 160 billion US dollars into its budget for education.

This book is relevant for the higher education community because it introduces the higher education system of Saudi Arabia. Institutions with recruitment goals for Saudi Arabia can benefit from this book, which consists of 17 chapters, because it informs readers about the history, governance, quality assurance, accreditation, teaching approaches, faculty research and other relevant topics. In addition to the objectives, changes, and challenges of the Saudi Higher education system, the authors address various initiatives and projects carried out by Saudi Arabia toward its mission to attain "...world-class standards" (p. 5).

The foundations of the higher education system in Saudi Arabia are: "a focus on the teaching of Islam, a centralized system of control and educational support, state funding (thus education is free at all levels in Saudi Arabia) and a general policy of gender segregation" (p. 2). Educational policies are administered by the Ministry of Education, the General Presidency of Girls' Education, the Ministry of Higher Education, and the General Organization for Technical Education and Vocational Training. Gender segregation is heavily enforced by the Saudi Arabian education system.

Saudi Arabia has 24 public and nine private institutions (p. 3). Because of free education, Saudi students are not confined to their home country, allowing them to study abroad in countries including the USA, the United Kingdom, Canada, Egypt, and Jordan. In early 2011, 107, 706 students were reported attending foreign institutions and 85% were fully funded by the King Abdullah Scholarship program (p. 3).

One of the most expensive initiatives to revamp the system was the King Abdullah Project, started in early 2007. Worth 3.1 billion US dollars, the project focuses on "...teacher training and professional development, curriculum and textbook review, the provision of contemporary information technology for both teaching and learning (including internet services for teachers and students) and programmes for developing innovative practice" (p. 4). "...Deepening Islamic values, morals and allegiance to family, society and nation, and appreciating and preserving national achievements" (p. 4) are equally important to Saudi Arabia; hence, money is bestowed for these purposes as well. …

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