Saudi Arabia and Higher Education

Saudi Arabia is in an eon of transformation. In the last 50 years it has obliterated its previous rate of illiteracy down to near-zero. Education for women has also become a marked investment for the country, as demonstrated in the King Abdullah Scholarship program, the largest scholarship program in the history of Saudi Arabia,  that started in 2005 between King Abdullah and President George Bush. It was lauched as an initiative to promote understanding between citizens of Saudi Arabia and Citizens of the United states, to improve their relation in a “post-911” era.

When the program began it had about 6,000 students in the states, but since then it has grown immensely popular. Eight years after its nascency 71,000 Saudis are studying topics from English, to Leadership organization, to STEM (science, technology, engineering and math.)

However, there is a paradox here. The number of women studying science surpasses the number of men studying science across the arab world, and yet these numbers are not being duplicated in the research workforce. Unemployment among Saudi women looking for jobs is down to 34 percent — almost five times as great as the 7 percent unemployment rate for men. Those unemployed women are disproportionately college-educated. Of Saudis receiving unemployment benefits, 86 percent are women, and 40 percent of those women have college degrees. Billions of dollars are being invested in the education of women whose presence in the work place is not always tolerated.

(More information can be found here. This is  a synthesis of the situation and commentary about what Americans should do in response to the influx of Saudi students)


6 thoughts on “Saudi Arabia and Higher Education

  1. The percentage of unemployed women is alarming indeed, especially with how qualified a lot of them are. That’s great that Saudi Arabia has invested so much money into educating their female population but I suppose it will take some time for the professional, male dominant, world in that country to accept them as equals. Did you find any listed reasons as to exactly why women aren’t getting hired as often?

  2. It’s so unfortunate to see gender inequality in almost all places, including Saudi Arabia. However I did not know this program existed and I’m very glad it does. To see something like this created by two very different nations is something I’m proud to see, especially with how much it’s grown.

  3. It’s really remarkable how many educated the population is as a whole in Saudi Arabia, but it’s sad how gender biased the country is at the same time. Women are still set back in the middle east giving them less opportunity even when they do have the same or even more qualifications as men. I think it would definitely be interesting to get an educated unemployed Saudi Arabian women perspective and thoughts on this and how it effects them personally.

  4. I am also proud that our country stepped up to provide such a great opportunity to Saudi Arabians and American students like myself. In the past two years, I have met some of the most amazing people ever. They are female Saudi Arabian students here studying English. The scholarship works, my mind has changed or my eyes have been opened to a different perspective! Love this article.
    I wonder with regards to unemployment where marriage plays in because many women once married do not get a job or quit.

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