In 1932, the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia was founded, and since then, their health system began to transition from traditional medicine to modern advanced patient care. At that time, there was still no medical school in Saudi Arabia. Students studied abroad for medicine and medical-related fields until 1957 when Riyadh University (now King Saud University) formed the first medical college in Saudi Arabia in partnership with the London College of Medicine.
Consequently, the initial phase of medical education in Saudi Arabia had similar patterns to Europe. However, at the turn of the 21st century, Saudi Arabian medical schools had undergone changes in their medical curriculum, and in combination with innovation and cooperation by both government and private sectors, medical education in Saudi Arabia had now become more refined and began to rise as one of the best in the world.
Can international students enroll in medical schools in Saudi Arabia?
Yes, but the likelihood of getting accepted is low. Before 2008, there were only five medical schools in Saudi Arabia, and a mere less than 20% of their physicians are Saudi Arabians. Consequently, the Ministry of Higher Educations took action to advance medical education in Saudi Arabia, and by 2008 ten new medical schools were built.
At present, there are 21 medical institutions in Saudi Arabia, but they still lack heavily in physicians. For this reason, the Saudi Arabian government had mandated that medical schools in Saudi Arabia be tuition-free and prioritize Saudi Arabian citizens. As most medical schools in Saudi Arabia is government or public universities, getting into these schools will be hard.
However, private medical universities in Saudi Arabia accept students equally with the paying capacity as the only basis. These include Ibn Sina National College, Batterjee Medical College, and Al Faisal University.
Before, high school graduates in Saudi Arabia do not need to take admission exams, and a high grade is the only requirement to get into medical school. Nowadays, international students and locals alike need to accomplish two series of examinations followed by an entrance interview to their chosen university. Here are the basic rules and requirements for International High School graduates aspiring to pursue medicine in Saudi Arabia:
- High School Diploma acquired within the past two years certified by the Saudi Embassy.
- High average grades and specific grades in science subjects.
- Authenticated copy of Bank statement for the last six months (for private schools)
- Passing scores in the two medical school admission exams (Tahsili and Quadraat) and interview.
Saudi Arabia has relatively few requirements to encourage student applications. It is also easier to get into the private medical institutions than the public schools, but prepare your pocket if you want to enroll in the private ones, as they generally require a minimum of 100,000 SR ($26,700) deposit to issue you a student visa.
Check Also: Available Programs for International Students
What is the medical curriculum like in medical schools in Saudi Arabia?
Before applying to Saudi Arabian medical schools, it is crucial to note that a medical license acquired from the country is only valid in similar Islamic countries. Non-Islamic countries like the US or UK may require additional education or licensure examinations. Early medical education in Saudi Arabia is a six-year program divided into three-year pre-clinical and three-year clinical studies.
Due to curriculum changes from 2008 onwards, the current curriculum now consists of almost seven years. Here is what to expect from the curriculum, taken from King Saud University College of Medicine:
The program includes a preparatory year for high school graduates. Medical education starts with two years into basic medical sciences such as anatomy, pathology, pharmacology, and physiology, which are system-based and includes practical sessions. The third year is the pre-clinical year as it covers medicine and surgery plus community research and medicine. The fourth and fifth years are the clinical years, which include clinical rotations to different medical departments.
And lastly, a compulsory internship year. Afterward, the intern will then receive his/her degree in Medicine and Surgery. The student shall take the Saudi Medical Licensure Examination (SMLE) to practice in Saudi Arabia and other Islamic countries or continue with post-graduate training/specialization.
Best Medical Schools in Saudi Arabia
1. Alfaisal University
Alfaisal University is a private university and is the best medical school in Saudi Arabia in both education and research. The development of the university’s medical curriculum is in collaboration with Harvard Medical International. Moreover, each course in the program is in partnership with King Faisal Specialist Hospital & Research Centre (KFSHRC) and Security Forces Hospital.
The medical curriculum includes three interconnected phases. Phase 1 encompasses the normal anatomy and physiology of the body. While Phase 2 explores its pathophysiology. And Phase 3 is the application of all that knowledge. As a non-government university, Alfaisal university is open to foreign and local students alike.
2. King Abdulaziz University
King Abdulaziz University (KAU) is one of the first five medical universities established in Saudi Arabia in 1977. KAU Faculty of Medicine leads the medical universities in Saudi Arabia, which offers a highly developed curriculum and extensive learning opportunities. KAU campus has two separated sections for males and females and a University hospital where the clinical and internship training occurs.
3. King Saud University
King Saud University, formerly known as Riyadh University, is one of the best medical schools in Saudi Arabia, and throughout the years, the school had been continuously improving. In 2009, their medical curriculum had an extreme transformation from teacher to student-centered learning with an outcome-based approach.
This revised medical education was from CanMED Canada, GMC Tomorrows Doctors United Kingdom, AAMC USA, and more. King Saud University accepts international students and even provides scholarships, even though, as a public university, their medical education is free.
4. King Saud bin Abdulaziz University For Health Sciences
King Saud bin Abdulaziz University For Health Sciences (KSAU-HS) is a research-intensive medical university in Saudi Arabia. Revisions of its MBBS program occurred in 2004 in partnership with the University of Sydney, Australia.
Their medical program also takes seven years but with a different format from other Saudi Arabian medical schools. It includes two-year preparatory training, two-year specialization, two-year clinical training, and a one-year internship. The World Federation of Medical Education recognizes the KSAU-HS medical program for its excellence for several years now.
5. Imam Abdulrahman Bin Faisal University
Imam Abdulrahman Bin Faisal University (IAU), formerly the University of Dammam, was initially part of King Faisal University until 2009. IAU spearheaded the post-graduate/specialization education in Saudi Arabia and was the first to receive recognition from the Arab Board of Specializations, the Royal College of Surgeons in Ireland, and the Saudi Commission for Health Specialties.
This top medical school in Saudi Arabia also enjoys numerous institutional partnerships both locally and internationally, such as the Saudi Commission for Health Specialties, the University of Arizona, and The Royal College of Physicians and Surgeons in Canada, to name a few. These organizations help the school provide globally-competitive education and training.
6. Umm Al-Qura University, College of Medicine
An acclaimed medical school that we want to introduce you to is Umm Al-Qura University – which is placed 5th in Saudi Arabia and 1832nd worldwide for 2023. Umm Al-Qura University’s, highly established Faculty of Medicine has been operational since 1996.
MBBS program at Umm Al-Qura University was revamped and made more comprehensive starting in September 2016 to produce an international cohort of medical professionals. Agreements were reached for this with the University College of London, widely regarded as the finest medical institution worldwide.
The faculty and staff there are well-versed in producing talented individuals in advanced clinical medicine. The graduates are able to enhance public medical services and provide a dynamic setting for scientific inquiry. Students here at this prestigious institute also receive lifelong learning training, the significance of accepting challenges and adopting ethical choices within their field.
Umm Al-Qura University’s medical curriculum is a 6-year degree including a training year. It consists of two stages and each of these covers years 2 through 6, containing horizontal along with vertical modules. The very first phase emphasizes improving the student’s verbal skills and fundamental medical knowledge including subjects of anatomy, physiology, etc.
Beginning with the 2nd term of the 6th year, students enter the 2nd phase of the program. Alongside this, their average admittance percentage to this university ranges between 70% and 83%. The school not only welcomes students from all around the world but also provides them with scholarship programs for financial aid. The cost of a bachelor’s degree is between $14,000 and $19,000.
7. Jazan University, College of Medicine
Among the most prestigious schools in Jazan, Saudi Arabia is Jazan University. According to the 2023 Arab Regional Ratings, it ranks at #91–#100. They specialize in creating outstanding medical practitioners who can raise the overall quality of care within fields of medical diagnosis and treatment.
Also, they openly promote students to participate in scientific research in their medical research center starting from the year 1430 AH – they could help find remedies for multiple advanced-level medical conditions.
Their medical school has stringent admissions standards, including a high Grade and GAT score as prerequisites for enrollment. They offer a 6-year bachelor’s medical program. The MBBS degree they provide is the culmination of a two-phase medical curriculum.
In the first phase, which lasts two years, students get an understanding of the basic anatomical portion, physiology, and the understanding of medical diseases. The second phase in the curriculum would be a second year of clinical rotations.
Throughout the second half of their training, students have hands-on experience in a variety of clinical settings, starting with an introduction to hospitals and general patient care. They ascend through the ranks of internal medicine specialists and seasoned practitioners.
A graduate’s final year is spent in an internship setting, providing direct assistance to patients. Both foreign and local students should expect to pay an annual tuition rate of at least $5,600 and upwards to enroll.
8. Qassim University, Unaizah College of Medicine and Medical Sciences
This became one of the initial institutions in KSA to receive both valid licenses from the NCAAA and global acclaim from WFME. The college was founded only with the sole purpose of generating doctors who have a firm grounding in both the fundamental and therapeutic disciplines.
The professionals and doctors at Qassim University, one of the top medical institutions in the country, emphasize integrating skills of Self-Directed Learning (SDL) in the graduates. The Institution’s MBBS degree, which takes five years to complete, started in 2000. The college is an early adopter of a course that combined Problem-Based Learning (PBL) and Community-Oriented Medical Education (COME) in Saudi Arabia.
Their 5 year-degree programs have a pre-clinical and clinical phase which starts from fundamental theory in the first two years. The clinical training consists of a 3-5th year of MBBS degree at Qassim University. After this, the 6th year is medical training provided for undergraduates on an internship basis in affiliated hospitals.
These include King Fahd Specialist Hospital, Buraydah Central Hospital, Maternity, and Children’s Hospital; Buraydah, and others. At Qassim University, in-state individuals pay a minimum annual tuition of $267. Yearly tuition exceeding USD 1,000 is required of all overseas students. Scholarships, grants, and other kinds of monetary aid make it possible for students to pay either a complete or a portion of the academic fee, living, and transportation expenses.
9. Al-Baha University, Faculty of Medicine
Another highly lauded medical university on our list is located in Al-Baha – this public university was founded in 2008 and currently has +15000 students enrolled in it. To enhance students’ ability to implement medical information, the academic staff at Al-Baha University’s Faculty of Medicine (ABUFM) chose a framework-based, holistic educational approach.
Some of the most renowned doctors in the world came from Al-Baha’s intensive educational system and rigorous research programs. In today’s evolving healthcare environment, the program’s tutors prepare students for the challenges of evidence-based clinical practice.
The MBBS curriculum at this school continues for six years and consists of pre-clinical learning, clinical training, and an internship. They provide state-of-the-art research facilities and hospital-based clinical training with advanced patient care.
However, enrollment at this prestigious institution is quite competitive. Candidates need an exceptional GAT score of at least 80% and a solid academic background in relevant science majors.
The university offers fully funded scholarships to foreign students if they meet their merit-based criteria. Graduates who have taken advantage of this school’s all-encompassing approach to education are well-equipped to meet professional standards in clinical skills and patient care.
10. Najran University, College of Medicine
Our final suggestion of the lot is Najran University which was established in 2006 – ranks as Saudi Arabia’s leading open-access research educational institution. The medical school at Najran University has received authorization from the Saudi Commission for Health Specialties.
As part of the prestigious medical schools in Saudi Arabia, their medical courses encompass a variety of specialist sectors and provide experience for the medical profession. However, getting admission into this institution is arduous. To get into its medical program, students must have intellectual competitiveness to score well on their entrance exam and have a high GAT score as well.
The 6-year MBBS curriculum at this institution prepares students to become doctors with preclinical and clinical training. The last year entails an internship year that involves direct patient care. For overseas students, the minimum annual cost of tuition at this school is upwards of $15,670.
International students who are studying at Najran University in Saudi Arabia are eligible for an entirely funded merit-based international scholarship. This can assist with living expenses as well as cover travel fees.
To keep up with the ever-increasing level of competition in the medical disciplines, the best medical schools in Saudi-Aarbia are increasingly emphasizing training-based schooling. The majority of Saudi Arabia’s medical institutions have modified their curriculum to better reflect modern global standards in the field of medicine. The above-mentioned schools consistently produce well-rounded, highly-competent doctors, making them among the most prestigious colleges in the entire nation. We hope this article was helpful in narrowing down which of these programs would be best for you to enroll in.
I hope that this article on the best medical schools in Saudi Arabia was helpful. If you are interested in knowing more, check out the Available Programs for International Students!