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Enormous Saudi scholarship programme extended to 2020

The prospects of an extension to Saudi Arabia’s King Abdullah Scholarship Program (KASP) were much on the mind of attendees at the recent ICEF Dubai Workshop. In the weeks following the workshop, official sources have indeed confirmed that KASP has been extended through 2020. This report provides additional details on the extension below as well as an update on current market conditions in Saudi Arabia.

Dr. Saad Nasser Aldwayan is an International Cooperation Consultant at the Ministry of Higher Education in Saudi Arabia. His session given on the opening day of the recent ICEF Dubai Workshop provided a packed room of attendees with an overview of the education system in Saudi Arabia as well as the trends and preferences of Saudi students wishing to study abroad.

As Dr. Aldwayan pointed out, with 79 percent of the Saudi population under the age of 40, and 36 percent of the population younger than 15 years of age, the growth potential in Saudi Arabia is far too great to ignore. Currently, 1.15 million students are enroled in higher education, with 5% in private institutions. Females make up 60 percent of the student population.

The popular King Abdullah Scholarship Program (KASP) was of particular interest to attendees, many of whom were keen to learn how their schools could qualify for partnerships, and what changes might be afoot. Universities offering a high quality education and a very international environment are at the top of the list of accredited institutions. Dr. Aldwayan encouraged attendees to keep a sharp eye on the programme, which is continually monitoring participants and looking for new educational institutions for cooperation: “If your school or country is not on our approved list today, keep checking and keep trying, because you never know what tomorrow may bring.”

Kim Berndt, Marketing Manager of Eden College in Dublin, Ireland, concurred: “You’ve got to be persistent. Keep trying to find the right people to connect with and invite them to your school so they can see first-hand the quality of your programmes and the unique environment your school can offer.”

Eden College is the very latest school to be added to the KASP approved list, and their attendance at ICEF Dubai came at precisely the right time. “We are very excited to be given this opportunity and are looking forward to finding new Saudi agents here in Dubai who can help us bring Saudi students to Eden.”

Since their attendance at the workshop, Eden has confirmed that they have their first group of Saudi students starting their English courses imminently.

KASP extension granted

The KASP came into the spotlight recently due to murmurings that it had been extended until 2020. The programme began in 2005 and was given a five year time limit. In 2007, King Abdullah extended the programme for another 2 years and in 2009 a further 3 year extension was granted. There was much speculation over whether or not an additional extension was in the pipeline, and much to everyone’s delight, official sources have confirmed that it will run until 2020.

The Saudi government invests a hefty 9 billion SAR (approximately 1.782 billion EUR) in the programme each year, and this provides full funding for 125,000 students – for both undergraduate and graduate programmes abroad. At present, the undergraduate fields of study are limited to medicine, medical science and health sciences; however, more options exist for graduate studies.

The Ministry of Higher Education website details which countries currently qualify to receive students. The Saudi government turned to these countries to learn valuable lessons when developing their own education system, namely the US, Australia, Malaysia, South Korea and Finland.

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