Saudi Arabia's king gave $10-billion to create a graduate-level institution, which opened in 2009.

Country Overview

Saudi Arabia is the largest country in the Middle East, stretching more than two-million-square kilometers–almost the entirety of the Arabian Peninsula–from the Persian Gulf in the east to the Red Sea in the west. The country, which is primarily desert, sits on 25 percent of the world’s known oil reserves. Revenue from oil and gas has enabled the ruling family, Al Saud, to modernize the country's infrastructure, but personal and political freedoms have not kept pace. The insular and restrictive country is the birthplace of the Prophet Muhammad and home to two of Islam’s holiest shrines in Mecca and Medina. The government has tried to balance reforms and Wahhabism, the devout interpretation of Sunni Islam with which Saudi Arabia identifies.


There are three climatic zones in the kingdom: (1) desert almost everywhere, (2) steppe along the western highlands, forming a strip less than 100 miles (160 km) wide in the north but becoming almost 300 miles (480 km) wide at the latitude of Mecca, and (3) a small area of humid and mild temperature conditions, with long summers, in the highlands just north of Yemen.

In winter, cyclonic weather systems generally skirt north of the Arabian Peninsula, moving eastward from the Mediterranean Sea, though sometimes they reach eastern and central Arabia and the Persian Gulf. Some weather systems move southward along the Red Sea trough and provide winter precipitation as far south as Mecca and sometimes as far as Yemen. In March and April, some precipitation, normally torrential, falls. In summer, the highlands of Asir (ʿAsīr), southeast of Mecca, receive enough precipitation from the monsoonal winds to support a steppelike strip of land.

Winters, from December to February, are cool, and frost and snow may occur in the southern highlands. Average temperatures for the coolest months, December through February, are 74 °F (23 °C) at Jiddah, 58 °F (14 °C) at Riyadh, and 63 °F (17 °C) at Al-Dammām. Summers, from June to August, are hot, with daytime temperatures in the shade exceeding 100 °F (38 °C) in almost all of the country. Temperatures in the desert frequently rise as high as 130 °F (55 °C) in the summer. Humidity is low, except along the coasts, where it can be high and very oppressive. The level of precipitation is also low throughout the country, amounting to about 2.5 inches (65 mm) at Jiddah, a little more than 3 inches (75 mm) at Riyadh, and 3 inches at Al-Dammām. These figures, however, represent mean annual precipitation, and large variations are normal. In the highlands of Asir, more than 19 inches (480 mm) a year may be received, falling mostly between May and October when the summer monsoon winds prevail. In the Rubʿ al-Khali, a decade may pass with no precipitation at all.





Overview of Higher Education

The system of higher education has lagged behind the rate of growth in Saudi Arabia since the discovery of oil in 1936. Of late, the government has been trying to play catch-up. Whereas in 2003 there were eight public universities for every 22 million people, there are now 21.   

Spending on higher education has nearly tripled. The king gave $10-billion to create the graduate-level institution, King Abdullah University of Science and Technology; the endowment makes it the sixth wealthiest university in the world. It opened in 2009.  
Universities offer diplomas, bachelor’s degrees, master’s degrees, and doctorates. Some colleges provide distance learning. Male and female students are segregated. Five universities accept both male and female students; in 2004 nearly 200 university and other colleges existed exclusively for women.

Postsecondary institutions are oriented less toward foreign students and more toward nationals who otherwise would study abroad. Postgraduate opportunities for foreigners are few.

(Sources: BBC, The World Bank, The Europa World of Learning, Graduate Prospects, Saudi Arabian Ministry of Education, The Chronicle of Higher Education)

Number of Colleges, Universities, Technical Institutes

Number of Colleges, Universities, and Technical Institutes (total): 32

Number of Higher Education Students

Number of students enrolled: 636,000

Number of international students enrolled:  6,360

Contact Information

Ministry of Higher Education

P.O. Box 225085 Riyadh 11324, Kingdom of Saudi Arabia

Web site: http://www.mohe.gov.sa/

Phone: +966-1-4415555

E-mail: contact@mohe.gov.sa

Contact: Dr. Khalid Al Anqari, The Minister of Higher Education