7 Cheapest Universities in Saudi Arabia for International Students

Saudi Arabia is definitely a country that not many people are unfamiliar with. With its striking religious prominence and dominant position in the Middle East, the country is one of the most developed and famous countries in Asia.

Saudi Arabia is mostly known for being the birthplace of Islam, one of the largest religions in the world. It is home to two of the holiest cities in the world: Mecca and Medina. In that light, the country annually draws in hundreds of millions of pilgrims from across the world.

The energy sector is the leading factor of the country that has helped it to become one of the hubs of the Middle East. Aside from being a rapidly developing metropolis, it is also known for the diverse culture and traditions that it has developed through centuries of history.

With a population of over 31.5 million and a landmass that exceeds 2.15 million square kilometers, this vast land is also home to an evolving education system. The universities of Saudi Arabia, in particular, have become widely acclaimed by international students mainly due to the fact that they have a fairly complicated and rigorous admissions system.

With its status as a superhub of the Middle East as well as Asia, its higher education system enables the students of these universities to become globally recognized and professionals in their fields of study.

As the government of Saudi Arabia intends to upregulate their prominence in international education, it further aims to increase the intake of international students into the country.

Saudi Arabia, with its vivid combination of culture and modernity, is definitely an interesting choice to pursue studies in. The question of finance can definitely come up, seeing as it is home to some of the world’s largest cities.

However, tuition fees are generally not known to be too expensive. Aside from being highly reputed and having some of the best institutions of higher education in the Middle East, tuition fees are comparatively low and most universities further offer lots of funds.

In this article, we present a list of universities in Saudi Arabia that have the cheapest as well as tuition-free education. We hope that you find this useful in your prospects!

Do universities in Saudi Arabia provide tuition-free education?

The majority of universities in Saudi Arabia are run by the government. These are general universities and do usually charge tuition fees. However, certain universities with a focus on academics, especially those that specialize in fields such as petroleum or health studies can offer free education and books.

In this case, international students can be exempt from fees as well.


What are the language requirements to study in Saudi Arabia?

The main language in the country is Arabic. However, English is a secondary language that is used for administration and certain teaching. Students are encouraged to study in Arabic and intensive language training courses are typically offered to international students who require it if need be.


How expensive is it to live in Saudi Arabia?

The cost of living in Saudi Arabia is possibly the biggest negative factor if you really want to study in this country. On average, high costs are usually inevitable, even when tightly budgeting. Students can expect to pay around USD $1500 on a monthly basis.

However, tuition fees are comparatively low/occasionally free. Furthermore, funding opportunities are available and some universities even provide living expenses, such as the King Abdullah University (which offers up to USD $30,000 in expenses).

There are ways that you can study in Saudi Arabia for free, which many international students have accomplished. If you are interested, visit How to Study in Saudi Arabia for Free (8 Steps).


Affordable Universities


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Cheap Universities in Saudi Arabia

1. King Saud University

Located in the capital city of Riyadh in Saudi Arabia, the King Saud University is a public research institution of higher education that was established in 1957. It is considered to be the first university in the country and was founded by King Saud bin Abdulaziz, a monarch who oversaw the development of the country’s education and economic sectors.

Since its inception, the KSU has expanded into a prominent hub of education in the Middle East. The institution was initially built to meet the demand for skilled workers in the country.

Currently, this cheap university in Saudi Arabia has a student enrolment of over 55,000, making it the largest university by population in the country (and quite possibly, the Middle East). Approximately 7% of the student body (which is around 3000) are international students from outside of the country.

A range of courses is offered by the university including the fields of humanities, natural sciences, healthcare, and engineering. It is also one of the only universities in the country to offer a focused and professional program in nanotechnology. Academic programs are taught in both English and Arabic for students.


2. King Abdulaziz University

The King Abdulaziz University is another public research university that is based in the iconic city of Jeddah in Saudi Arabia. Founded in 1967, it was initially a private institution of higher education but was incorporated into a public, government-based university shortly after.

The university is one of the most prestigious in the country and has consistently been ranked among the top 10 institutions in the Middle East. It is also the largest university by student enrolment and has a population of over 180,000 students.

Academically, the university is comprised of multiple colleges of study. These include the faculties of engineering, economics/administration, law as well as other faculties that cover a wide variety of disciplines.

It gained international recognition after it incorporated a program focused on research by 2014. This enabled the university to establish numerous international partnerships with other overseas institutions.

Additionally, this cheap university in Saudi Arabia has been ranked in the top 400 universities globally for over 4 major ranking tables.


3. Effat University

The Effat University is a private institution of higher education that is primarily created for women. The university was established in 1999 as a college by the King Faisal Charitable Foundation with the intention of creating a focused institution for women to pursue their higher education.

It was elevated to the status of a university in 2009. In its academic composition, the university has 4 main colleges and a novel research and consultancy institute. It academically separates into the following departments: the colleges of engineering, architecture & design, business, humanities & social sciences, and the college of graduate studies.

Its establishment was further improved with the approval for graduate education in 2011. Despite its 20 years since its inception and its relatively recent addition to the higher education system of Saudi Arabia, the university has evolved considerably into a fully-fledged institution.

Effat University further maintains a strong international standing via prominent partnerships with overseas universities across the world (including the likes of Mount Holyoke College, Syracuse University, Duke University, and the Pratt School of Engineering).


4. King Abdullah University of Science and Technology

Our next university in the list of cheapest universities in Saudi Arabia for international students is King Abdullah University of Science and Technology. Based in the city of Thuwal near Jeddah, the King Abdullah University of Science and Technology (the KAUST) is a private institution of higher education that was established in 2009.

The university has a lot of unique features; it is the first institution of higher education to create a mixed gender-student body (as most other universities are not co-educational).

It further offers a wide variety of graduate education programs as well as research training with English as the primary language of instruction. Postgraduate studies are the main academics offered by the university, with the majority of students pursuing Ph.D. programs.

The university currently has a student enrolment of over 3000 students. Despite its recent inception, the university has not taken long to climb up the ranks and has been considered among the top 50 under 50 universities for their research output.

It operates its research facilities through a specialized research and technology park. The international community of the university is quite prominent with students coming to pursue their studies from across 60 countries. In fact, 69% of the student body is made up of international students.


5. Prince Mohammed Bin Fahd University

Another private institution within the higher education system in Saudi Arabia is Prince Mohammed Bin Fahd University. Established in 2006, the university is located in the city of Dhahran in the Eastern Province region of Saudi Arabia. Its student body is made up of a large student population of over 3000 students. Academically, the university consists of the colleges of Engineering (co-ed), Interior Design (females only), Business (co-ed), and Information Technology (females only).

Bachelors programs are currently offered through 17 academic programs. The language of instruction varies from Arabic to English depending on the course. Campus facilities are typically segregated with certain areas restricted to specific genders.

This is in compliance with the strict Islamic laws that govern the nature of the country and certain universities are obligated to maintain law and order through these.


6. Al Faisal University

Located in the capital city of Riyadh, Al Faisal University is a private research institution of higher education that was founded in 2002. With a student enrolment of over 3000 students, the university has expanded into a university of recognition in the Middle East. Over 30% of the student population is composed of international students who come from over 50 different countries in the world.

This cheap university in Saudi Arabia academically consists of over 100 different departments collectively organized under a series of academic colleges; these include medicine, engineering, business, pharmacy, science & general studies. Doctoral programs are also offered in specific areas. It is further overseen by an international board that boosts its standing.


7. King Fahd University of Petroleum and Minerals

Our last cheapest university in Saudi Arabia is the King Fahd University of Petroleum and Minerals, a public research university that is based in the city of Dhahran. As its name suggests, in comparison to the majority of Arabian universities in the region, the university has particular dominance in the fields of business/management, engineering, and science education.

It is one of the main hubs of education in the field of petroleum studies which is an integral part of the energy sector that drives the economy of Saudi Arabia.

The university is especially coveted by Saudi Arabian students and is known for its relatively competitive admissions rate. It has further been ranked under the top 50 under 50 universities in the world for its high-quality standards of academic education.


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