How does KSA plan to strengthen its place in the world as a force of education?
Ivor McGettiganPartner,Employment & Incentives
Saudi Arabia is undergoing a major transformation in its education sector as part of its Vision 2030 agenda. The country aims to improve the quality and relevance of its education system, diversify its economy, and create a knowledge-based society. In this article, we will explore the key opportunities and challenges for both K-12 and higher education in Saudi Arabia.
Saudi Arabia has a large and growing school-age population. The number of students in K-12 schools is projected to grow at a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 1.6% to reach approximately 8 million by 2027. This creates a strong demand for education, especially in urban areas such as Riyadh. Adding further to the demand side of the equation is the regional headquarters initiative, whereby multinationals are encouraged set up in Riyadh, as well as the various giga-projects that are ongoing throughout the Kingdom.
To meet this demand, the government has allocated 17% of its budget, equivalent to US$50.4 billion, to education in 2023. It has also introduced a new school curriculum that emphasizes critical thinking, creativity, and innovation, and has launched teacher development and retention programs. Moreover, it has encouraged private sector participation through public-private partnership (PPP) projects, such as the construction of 120 new PPP schools in Jeddah and Makkah.
Private schools are growing faster than public schools in Saudi Arabia, as they offer more choice, quality, and diversity to parents and students. Private schools account for 17% of the total enrolments in K-12 schools and are expected to grow at a CAGR of 2.0% compared to 1.6% for public schools. Private schools can adopt international curricula, which are highly sought after by Saudi families who can afford high tuition fees. The most popular curricula are American and British. Approximately 400,000-450,000 households in Saudi Arabia can pay between $10,000-$15,000 annually in tuition fees, while around 25,000-30,000 households can pay over $25,000 in annual tuition.
However, private education also poses some challenges for Saudi Arabia including price of land and hiring/retention of teachers, which is a worldwide issue now. One issue that surfaced in the past, Saudisation, is effectively no longer an issue for international schools.
The government aims to have five universities in the global top 100 rankings by 2030 and has allocated 17% of its budget to education in 2023.
Saudi Arabia also has a large and growing higher education sector, with 1.6 million students enrolled in colleges and universities in 2022. The number of students is projected to reach 1.7 million by 2027, growing at a CAGR of 0.6%. The government aims to have five universities in the global top 100 rankings by 2030 and has allocated 17% of its budget to education in 2023. It has also offered scholarships for students in space-related subjects, such as astronomy, aerospace engineering, and satellite technology, to support its ambitious space program.
The government has also expanded the infrastructure and capacity of the higher education sector through PPP projects, such as 11 new PPP construction projects to expand colleges and universities. It has also partnered with foreign universities to open branches or offer joint degrees in Saudi Arabia, such as King Abdullah University of Science and Technology (KAUST), which collaborates with Stanford University and MIT, among others.
These initiatives create opportunities for international universities and educators to enter the Saudi market, either through direct investment or collaboration. They also create opportunities for academic exchange, research collaboration, and knowledge transfer.
However, the higher education sector in Saudi Arabia also faces some challenges, such as the mismatch between the degrees, skills, and employment market requirements and the high outbound student mobility.
Saudi Arabia is a very business-friendly jurisdiction to do business. The Ministry of Investment (MISA) is the gateway for foreign companies to commence their journey, with fast-track services and direct lines into other key regulators and stakeholders. MISA also maintain lists of local investors who they can match-make with foreign parties if desired.
We don’t have time in this article to explore all the different legal considerations but suffice to say that protection of the foreign party’s intellectual property is one of the key first steps. Registration of trademarks and logos is done at the Saudi Authority for Intellectual Property (SAIP). Once the trademark is registered the education brand will be able to file a complaint against any third party that has not obtained authorisation to use it.
Saudi Arabia is undergoing a significant transformation in its education sector, as part of its Vision 2030 agenda. The country offers many opportunities for both K-12 and higher education, as it has a large and growing student population, a supportive government, and a demand for quality and diversity. Saudi Arabia is a business-friendly jurisdiction with encouraging ministries and framework.
Alpen Capital- GCC Education Industry Report 2023
Colliers- K-12 KSA – Education Opportunities in the Kingdom
For further information,please contact Ivor McGettigan.
Published in September 2023
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