Many people are well aware of Saudi universities that offer scholarships to Muslims from around the world to study. These universities have become well known over the last few decades, as they have graduated hundreds of thousands of students from almost every country in the world. The more renowned of these universities are the Islamic University of Madinah, Umm al-Qura University in Makkah and Imam Muhammad bin Saʿud Islamic University in Riyadh. However, what most people are unaware of is that there are a total of 25 high-capacity universities in Saudi Arabia, geographically distributed throughout the various regions of the country. Furthermore, in 2010 the Saudi Ministry of Higher Education passed a mandate that required every Saudi university to ensure that 5% of the accepted students per semester are non-Saudi scholarship students. This would serve as an opportunity for many who are keen on studying Islam and have high aspirations, and have applied for the more well-known universities, but were not accepted.
Over the last few years, many of these other universities have started implementing the government mandate requiring them to accept students from outside the country. However, only a handful of them have opened Arabic language institutes catered to teaching Arabic to non-native speakers preparing them to study at the various colleges of the respective universities. Thus, having a solid foundation in the Arabic language is a prerequisite to study at most of these universities.
Once an applicant is accepted to one of these universities, he generally has the option of choosing from any of the university’s colleges for his undergraduate studies (with exception to certain colleges, such as the college of medicine), meaning that he does not have to necessarily specialize in Islamic studies. As for those who wish to specialize in Islamic studies, their options are generally limited to one college: the college of tarbiyah (education), which has different specializations, among which is Islamic studies (which also has further specializations in areas of ʿAqidah, Tafsir, Hadith and Fiqh).
As for female students, all of these universities have branches of the same colleges for women. However, they do not cater for non-Arabic speaking students and do not have Arabic language institutes like they may have for male students. Hence, these universities do not accept non-Saudi female applicants from abroad unless they already know Arabic and can enter the college directly, and are already living in Saudi Arabia with their husbands.
Once accepted, a student receives the same benefits that non-Saudi scholarship students receive in other Saudi universities. That includes, but is not limited to:
- A student visa and residence permit
- A yearly round-trip plane ticket to the country the student came from
- A monthly stipend of 850 SR (900 SR for post-graduates students)
- Free accommodation (for single students only)
- Free basic medical care
- Discounted meals
Firstly, the requirements for admission to any Saudi university, as a non-Saudi living abroad, is the same across the board (maximum age of 25 years, high school graduate, etc.). These requirements have been put in place by the Saudi Ministry of Higher Education and must be followed by all universities.
Secondly, some of these universities have an online application process through their official websites. Others do not, thus making it difficult to apply to them. Nonetheless, interested applicants can send their documents to these universities by postal mail hoping that they will reach the right people.
The documents required are generally the same for all universities. They are as follows:
- Cover letter, stating the applicant’s desire to study at the university, and written in either Arabic or English
- Complete postal address of applicant, along with phone number and email address
- At least two tazkiyahs (letters of recommendation) from known Islamic centers in applicant’s country
- Copy of high school diploma
- Copy of academic transcript
- Copy of birth certificate
- Copy of valid passport
Some of these universities have official deadlines for applying, while others do not. That information is available in the links I have provided below for each university.
Universities with Arabic Language Institutes:
Universities without Arabic Language Institutes:
- Taif University
- University of Dammam
- University of Tabuk
- Prince Sattam bin Abdul-Aziz University (Kharj)
- King Khalid University (Abha)
- King Faisal University (Hufuf)
- University of Hail
- Jazan University
- Najran University
- Al-Baha University
- Majmaʿah University
- Shaqra University
- Al-Jouf University
Buraydah, Saudi Arabia
17th of Shaʿban 1437