Saudi Arabia's Ministry of Higher Education issues government scholarships to thousands of Saudi students each year to attend domestic and foreign universities. Saudi universities also offer scholarships to foreign students primarily from Pakistan and India. Saudi King Abdullah implemented the King Abdullah Scholarship Program in late 2004 to increase the number of Saudis, especially women, attending Western universities. The government also issues scholarships for Saudi students to attend English language schools to prepare for university studies.
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Between 2004 and 2008, an estimated 42,000 Saudi government scholarship students attended universities mostly in the United Kingdom, the United States, Canada and Australia. In 2009, the number rose to 52,000 students. The students also attend domestic universities on scholarships.
As of 2010, an estimated 15,616 Saudi students---25 per cent comprised of women ---were studying for undergraduate and postgraduate degrees in the United Kingdom. Students receive an average living allowance of about £1,170 per month. Female students, who account for about 60 per cent of the overall domestic and foreign university student population, must be accompanied by a mahram if living abroad. A mahram is a male guardian such as a brother, father or uncle. They receive approximately £1,755 monthly in living expenses. Tuition is fully paid. The government places no academic or learning environment conditions on students other than to adhere to the universities' standards.
Saudi university students must be proficient in English to attend Western universities. The Ministry of Higher Education provides scholarships for students to attend English language schools. The average attendance at a language school is about one year. Western universities usually require that undergraduate Saudi students have a 60 per cent passing grade on their Tawjihiyah (high school certificate) with a 6.0 score on the International English Language Testing System (IELTS) or a 550 score on the Test of English as a Foreign Language (TOEFL) for admission, according to the University of Glamorgan (Wales).
Language schools prepare Saudi students who do not have good IELTS or TOEFL scores to achieve passing results. Tuition and living expenses are the same for language school scholarships as university scholarships.
Some Saudi universities offer scholarships funded through the Ministry of Higher Education to foreign students. Classes are taught in English. Students qualify by submitting high school transcripts and IELTS or TOEFL test scores. Foreign merit-based scholarship students can receive government scholarships that cover between 50 per cent to 100 per cent of the tuition and a living allowance. Eligibility depends on academic, athletic or artistic performance. Need-based scholarships are available depending on the financial need of the student's family and administered through the Prince Sultan Scholarship Program.
University administrators determine eligibility by examining families' employment and financial status. The Ministry of Higher Education offers scholarships to foreign students with an 85 per cent passing grade from high school or a 2.75 grade point average while attending another university.
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