The Program for Research on Private Higher Education
Dedicated to Building Knowledge about Private Higher Education around the World
PHE Dissertation 6

Understanding Private Higher Education in Saudi Arabia -Emergence, Development and Perceptions


By Yussra Jamjoom

Thesis submitted to Institute of Education University of London for the degree of Doctor of Philosophy


This thesis looks into the factors underlying the emergence, development, and understandings of private higher education in Saudi Arabia from three perspectives. The first perspective is regional-historical, from which I examine the rise and growths of the private sector from a regional and historical point of view. The second perspective is institutional, from which I examine the perceptions of private higher education among different groups of stakeholders in comparison to its counterpart, the public sector, through three different phases of private higher education provision: 1)the entry point 2) the experience stage and 3) the exit to the job market. The third perspective can be understood as ‘socio-political’, from which I look at the relationship between the private sector and the wider political environment, and also the use of the English language in private higher education provision: how it presents itself as both a challenge and benefit for various stakeholders of it.

My analysis leads to a conclusion that the private sector is a necessary complement to a public one, which not only lacks the capacity but also is being challenged by many fronts. The public sector was found to fall short in meeting quantitative and qualitative demands for higher education. The sector of private higher education in Saudi Arabia is found to provide ‘more’ opportunities to higher education, to have ‘different’ characteristics from the public sector, leading it to be perceived as ‘better’ than the public sector.

Overall, this research is of a qualitative nature. For the regional-historical perspective, I use a wide range of literature and second-hand data. For the institutional perspective, I make use of empirical data collected from my fieldwork, which is also used for discussions in the third dimension along with government policy documents.

Based on the overall findings of this research, tentative recommendations are made for the future development of Saudi private higher education.

Date Published:
Sep 2012
Yussra Jamjoom