JEDDAH: In an age when it is regarded as both essential and expensive, Saudi Arabia’s scholarship program provides a world-class education, ensuring financial assistance and paid tuition to all those who qualify.
Beneficiaries of the program study abroad, returning with degrees and skills needed for the Kingdom’s development into a modern society.
In 1928, King Abdul Aziz Al-Saud ordered the first batch of students to be sent on scholarships to Egypt. A total of 14 went to complete their education in medicine, agriculture, engineering and law.
It was a crucial time for the young Kingdom, and the students contributed towards building the formative nation. Many became ministers, councillors, ambassadors and engineers in top positions, helping establish ministries and forming Saudi government entities.
The early Kingdom understood the importance of education as a vehicle for national development. Today, Saudi Arabia is among the leading countries measured by annual expenditure on education, with an impressive SR193 billion ($51.4 billion) allocated for Vision 2030 initiatives, as well as projects across the Kingdom, in 2019.
Success stories abound: Abdullah Tariki, the first Saudi oil minister appointed by King Saud and a co-founder of OPEC, graduated from Cairo University and later obtained his master’s degree in petroleum engineering from the University of Texas.
The first Saudi woman to obtain a government scholarship was Dr. Thoraya Obaid in 1963, who served as executive director of the United Nations Population Fund and undersecretary-general of the UN from 2000-2010. Success stories like these paved the way for other Saudi women to pursue higher education in the US, UK, Egypt and Lebanon and become prominent names in their fields, both within the Kingdom and abroad.
Many of the latest recipients of Saudi scholarships are third-generation beneficiaries, following in the footsteps of their parents and grandparents.
With the launch of the King Abdullah Scholarship Program in 2005, droves of Saudi students began to explore new avenues of education beyond just the West and Middle East. As of 2018, more than 90,000 Saudi students study abroad. Of these, 850 are at the world’s top 10 universities, and 1,600 are medical residents and fellows.