Higher Education Institutions and Qualifications in Saudi Arabia

The Ministry of Higher Education of Saudi Arabia is responsible for higher education. The Ministry of Higher Education provides support and services for the universities and colleges in Saudi Arabia.

The oldest university in Saudi Arabia is King Saud University in Riyadh, and the largest university is King Abdulaziz University in Jeddah.

Higher Education Institutions


In Saudi Arabia, there are public as well as private universities, and these universities consist of many faculties and colleges. 

Public universities are larger than the private universities, and offer undergraduate and postgraduate degree programmes. These universities run under the royal decree. There are currently 25 public universities in Saudi Arabia.

Private universities emphasize on the undergraduate level studies in specific fields. These universities function under licensure from the Ministry of Higher Education. In Saudi Arabia, presently, there are 9 licensed private universities.

Community Colleges/ Junior Colleges

Community/Junior colleges in Saudi Arabia provide degree programmes in several fields. These programmes last for 2 to 3 years. The community/junior colleges are mostly connected with public universities.

Girls’ Colleges

Girl’s colleges in Saudi Arabia are generally the specialized institutions that provide limited courses to study. They mostly focus on specialisation in education. These colleges provide associate degrees and bachelor degrees. Some of the girl’s colleges provide graduate degree programmes as well. 

Many of the girls’ colleges were merged in 2005, and formed the Riyadh University for Women, which is now called as the Princess Nora Bint Abdulrahman University. The rest of the colleges are affiliated to a local university. 

Technical and Vocational Training Colleges & Institutes

In Saudi Arabia, following are the technical and vocational education institutions:
  • Industrial and Vocational Institutes: These institutes provide programmes that lead to a particular profession. Certificates and diplomas are awarded by this institution after completion of the programme. These are for men only.   
  • Colleges of Technology: This type of institution offer certificates and bachelor degree. These are only for men.   
  • Higher Technical Institutes for Girls: These institution award diplomas in several fields. 

Private Colleges

Most of the vocational and technical institutions in Saudi Arabia are private. There are mainly 4 types of private colleges in Saudi Arabia:
  • Higher training institutes: These institute award certificate and diploma programmes.
  • Training centers: These provide short-term programmes only
  • Training institutes: These institutes provide short and medium term training courses.
  • Technical institutes: These institutes provide secondary level technical courses of study.

Higher Education Qualifications

Level 1: Associate Diploma

This qualification is professional-oriented. Students holding this qualification are can go for further studies. 
  • Credit hours: 30
  • Duration: 1 year

Level 2

Diploma: This qualification is provided in administrative and professional areas. It provides education related to a specific profession.

Associate degree: This qualification develops the knowledge and skills required for a particular professional field. This degree also provides theoretical and general knowledge that is required for higher studies. 
  • Credit hours: 60-90 
Advanced diploma: This is an intermediate qualification between Level 2 and Level 3.
  • Credit hours: 90

Level 3: Bachelor Degree

In Saudi Arabia, bachelor degree is offered in a wide range of general and elective courses. Bachelor’s degree in professional fields lasts for more than 4 years- for pharmacy, veterinary sciences, engineering, and medicine, dentistry; it takes 5 to 6 years of full-time study.
  • Duration: 4 years
  • Credit hours: 120

Level 4: Higher Diploma/Graduate Diploma

To enter into this qualification programme, students must hold a bachelor’s degree. The programme provides an academic and professional education and training in an existing specialisation.
  • Credit hours: 24
  • Duration: 1 year
Students who successfully complete this level are eligible to go for master’s studies, but may be required to satisfy special admittance requisites.

Postgraduate Studies

Level 5: Master’s Degree

At master’s level, students are required to complete a coursework and submit a master’s thesis or a project. 
  • Credit hours: 24 of coursework and 8 credits of a thesis, or 39 for coursework and a research project
  • Duration: 2 years

Level 6: Doctorate/PhD

Students must hold a master’s degree to enter doctor degree programmes. The Doctor of Philosophy needs at least 30 credit hours of advanced coursework and a major dissertation. 
  • Duration: 3 years (Varies)
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