In 2005, the late King Abdullah Bin Abdulaziz Al Saud responded to concerns for the sustainable development of human resources in Saudi Arabia by launching the King Abdullah Scholarship Program (KASP). Supported by the Saudi Government and implemented by the Ministry of Education (MOE), the KASP would become an important source of support for the Kingdom's public and private sectors by developing, qualifying, and preparing human resources. The program would achieve its objectives by sponsoring academically distinguished Saudi citizens to study in the world's best universities, in degree specializations that were selected in accordance with the needs of the Saudi labour market. Upon completion, graduates would be expected to return to the Kingdom and contribute to the country's development.
The KASP began with an agreement between King Abdullah and the former American President George W. Bush to increase the number of Saudi students in the United States of America. The Saudi Government invested SR7 billion (Saudi Riyals), and sent a group of 9,252 male and female students (of the 40,000+ applicants) to study in American universities. The pilot program proved to be a great success.
Within a few years, the scope of the scholarship program was broadened to include a greater number of specializations and countries. What began as a five-year program with a few thousand students in the United States was soon providing tens of thousands with the unprecedented opportunity to pursue language training, Bachelor, Master, PhD programs and medical fellowships abroad, in countries like the United Kingdom, Australia, and Canada. In each country where KASP recipients were sent, the MOE had established a Cultural Bureau or Mission -- a diplomatic office operating as a branch of each country's Saudi Arabian embassy -- that would administer the scholarship program and provide additional support services for Saudi students and their families.
As KASP graduates returned to the Kingdom, the success of the program was evident. The program met its original goal of supplying qualified human resources to the Saudi labour market, as graduates of international universities returned to the Kingdom with high academic and professional standards.
The program yielded additional positive outcomes for the Kingdom in terms of cross-cultural exchange. KASP recipients not only studied abroad, they acted as ambassadors for their country. Many Saudis took the opportunity to share their religious and cultural beliefs with people in the host country, sowing the seeds for future international cooperation and cultural understanding.
The KASP, which has been generously extended until at least 2020 by the late King Abdullah, has grown rapidly over the last decade. To date, more than 200,000 Saudi Arabian citizens have been conferred degrees in over 30 countries. In 2015, the Saudi Arabian Government announced that it had allocated SR210 billion, a fourth of its overall budget and an increase from 2014, for the KASP's 10th cycle of students. This is a promising sign for the future of the scholarship program.
To prepare and qualify Saudi Arabian human resources in an effective manner to compete on an international level in the labor market and in scientific research.
Scholarship students from Saudi Arabia have been sent around the world to study degree programs in diverse areas of specializations. The list of approved specializations for KASP students has been carefully selected by the Saudi Arabian Government and Ministry of Education (MOE) in accordance with the needs of its ministries, national corporations, and the private sector. The selection of programs aims to fulfill the requirements of labour markets across the Kingdom in different regions, universities and industrial cities. Currently, students undertake academic programs in the following fields of study:
Scholarship students are currently studying in Canada, USA, Britain, Germany, Italy, Spain, Holland, Australia, New Zealand, France, Japan, Malaysia, China, India, Singapore, and South Korea. A Saudi Arabian Cultural Mission or Saudi Arabian Cultural Bureau has been established in each country to administer the scholarship program and to provide comprehensive support to the students throughout the duration or their studies.
Scholarship students are financially supported in the following ways:
*The SACB can provide Bench Fees for KASP students in the amount of up to $5,000 for Master students and $10,000 for PhD students to cover the cost of consumable items used during their studies. Requests for bench fees are handled by the Department of Academic Relations and Admissions and any enquiries should be submitted to firstname.lastname@example.org. Please visit the Administrative and Financial Affairs page to read more about the request/approval process.
The KASP covers up to 18 months of English as a Second Language (ESL) preparation to enable students to achieve the required level of academic language proficiency. Undergraduate students receive four years of funding, Master’s students receive two years of coverage, and PhD students are funded for three years. Extensions may be granted in exceptional cases.
Students awarded a King Abdullah Scholarship to pursue higher education abroad undergo a rigorous application and selection process. An announcement, delivered through local media outlets and the Saudi Arabian Ministry of Education website, alerts prospective students that registration has begun. Scholarship applications are submitted via a link on MOE’s website and each is scrupulously evaluated by a Ministry-appointed, independent scholarship program committee.
The committee will do a merit-based screening and recommend a student based on his or her collective achievements in accordance with the number of available scholarships. Applications are assessed using the following academic selection criteria. Bachelor’s students must have a secondary school grade above 90%, General Aptitude Test above 80%, Achievement Test above 80%, and Associate Degrees (2 year post-secondary diplomas) must have a minimum GPA of 4.5/5.00. Graduate level applicants must have achieved the aforementioned criteria, and Master’s students must additionally hold a Bachelor’s Degree with an overall GPA no less than 3.75/5.00 or equivalent, while PhD students must hold a Master’s Degree with an overall GPA no less than ‘Very Good’ or equivalent. The committee must also conduct interviews with candidates prior to nomination.
The KASP recipients are listed on the Ministry’s website and through major local media outlets, and the electronic files of all nominees are subsequently transferred to the Saudi Arabian Cultural Bureau or Mission in the designated country of study.
A Scholarship Students Forum is hosted annually in Riyadh, comprising of lectures and symposia and aimed at providing information for students about the designated countries in which they will undertake their academic studies. Once formalities are completed, students are awarded their scholarships during the Forum. Scholars then depart Saudi Arabia and arrive at their respective international study destination.
Upon arrival in Canada, scholarship recipients contact SACB to perform the following tasks:
An Academic Advisor is assigned to a scholarship student depending on the phase of study (ESL, undergraduate, graduate, etc). The Aacademic Advisor is responsible for initiating tuition payments, issuing Financial Guarantees/Sponsorship Authority Certifications, and following up on each student’s progress.
*The Consent Form authorizes the SACB to access and obtain academic information on a student's behalf throughout the duration of his/her studies in Canada. The Consent Form declares that the student gives unconditional and irrevocable consent and direction to educational and medical agencies/associations, in which they are a member, to release information which the academic institution may possess or acquire in relation to the student, including all academic and other records, to SACB. The Consent Form, created by SACB’s Legal Department, aligns with Canada’s Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act and is widely accepted by universities and colleges across Canada.
Scholarship students are encouraged to study English at recognized centres in Saudi Arabia, as this is wll increase chances of admission to Canadian post-secondary institutions and prepare them for further studies in English if it is required. Students who are confident in their language skills may choose to fulfil the language proficiency requirements of their desired academic program by undertaking an English proficiency exam (such as IELTS or TOEFL) and providing the test core to the institution as evidence of having met the required level. Others, who do not meet the language proficiency requirements for direct entry to academic programs at Canadian post-secondary institutions, will enroll in intensive ESL programs at private and public ESL schools in Canada that have been approved by the SACB. Students who choose the latter option are funded for language training for up to 18 months, during which time they are expected to receive a minimum of 20 hours of group instructed ESL per week.
The MOE maintains a detailed list of all universities and colleges that students are allowed to attend in all countries to which KASP students are sent. The directory has been published in accordance with a set of criteria approved by the MOE and is updated annually. This list is based on careful scrutinization and research of how well the programs serve the purpose of the KASP students who are sent to study abroad. Scholarship students are permitted to register at Canadian institutions for academic programs that have been pre-approved by MOE. Most certificate and diploma programs, online or distance-learning courses, and programs designed specifically for international students are not approved.
There are two types of Financial Guarantee letters - those provided to students for Admissions Purposes Only, and those which are issued directly from SACB to Canadian post-secondary institutions after a student has registered for academic study. Students sponsored by KASP will often provide academic institutions with an Admissions Purposes Only Financial Guarantee letter during the application phase. This document is issued by SACB to KASP students in Canada and states that upon admission to the degree program, SACB will pay the student’s registration, tuition, bench fees (if applicable), health insurance, and provide a monthly stipend. Once the student accepts an offer of admission from a Canadian university or college, and the program meets the requirements of the scholarship awarded to that student, the SACB will issue a final Financial Guarantee letter, also known as a Sponsorship Authority Certification. This letter is confirmation that the SACB will be financially responsible for that student.
The SACB can provide Bench Fees for KASP students in the amount of up to $5,000 for Master students and $10,000 for PhD students to cover the cost of consumable items used during their studies. Requests for bench fees are handled by the Department of Academic Relations and Admissions and any enquiries should be submitted to email@example.com. The bench fee approval process normally begins when a graduate-level scholarship student finds a potential supervisor. The chosen research university will provide SACB or the student with a proposal, on letterhead, detailing all items to be purchased (including cost per item) that is signed by the research supervisor, appropriate department chair or school director. The student must submit the request for approval through the Student Portal (the official channel for communication between Academic Advisors and scholarship students) and it will be processed by the SACB.
The SACB will inform the student of the final decision through the Student Portal and, if approved, SACB will send a letter to the university acknowledging its receipt of the proposal and informing them of next steps. Upon receiving an invoice from the university, the SACB will release the funds. The university provides for indirect or overheas costs, such as costs associated with facilities and basic utilities, the purchase and repair of office equipment, administration fees, insurance for equipment and research vehicles, basic communication devices such as telephones and fax machines, and computer software and terminals. The SACB is not responsible for funding expenditures or commitments by grantees that exceed grant funds applied to the grantees’ credit at the institution for current and prior fiscal periods.