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 CollegeBatterjee 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.


Saudi Arabian medical schools are some of the rapidly developing institutions around the globe, increasing in ranks each year. Do not miss out and send your application now!


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!