A Guide to Studying in the Middle East

Middle Eastern countries are eager for you to study there.

If you are unaware, the Middle East is a region that covers Western Asia, part of Europe and part of North Africa. The history of the Middle East dates back to ancient times, with the importance of the region being recognized for millennia. It generally has a hot, dry climate, and is often associated with oil reserves, particularly around the Persian Gulf, making it a major export of the area.

But let’s take a closer look at the countries that make up the area and the study opportunities within.


Bahrain is an island nation tucked away in the Middle East in an archipelago in the Persian Gulf. The warm climate and mild winters make it an appealing place to study for those who wish to avoid the cold. Over 1.3 million people call Bahrain home, and over 55 percent of the population are immigrants. It also draws over 8 million tourists every year who come to the island to enjoy its historic sites, beaches and natural wonders.

The public universities range from general study to training of health professionals. Private colleges and universities run on two semester schedules. The first semester runs from August to December, and the second semester runs from January through May. Some universities also offer summer courses.

While it might not be as fashionable as wealthy neighbours like Dubai, Abu Dhabi and Qatar, Bahrain is a worthy destination for international students looking for graduate programs in the Middle East.


Cyprus is increasingly popular among international students thanks to its well respected education system, reasonable tuition fees and year-round sunshine. The Mediterranean's third-largest island spends around 7% of its GDP on education, making it one of the top three education spenders in the world, only falling behind Denmark and Sweden.

The cost of study is low in comparison to other fashionable European study destinations and crime almost non-existent. You'll also have the chance to pick up a second language, either Greek or Turkish depending on where you study. However, English is widely spoken.

Furthermore, the country enjoys a Mediterranean climate and boasts sandy beaches, lush forests and ancient ruins making it an idyllic destination to further your education and broaden your cultural horizons.


Egypt might be a surprising choice for a study abroad program, but there are many reasons you should choose the home of the pyramids.

Studying a graduate program in Egypt will allow you to study at well-respected, low cost institutions, while immersing yourself in the country’s unique history and cultural tradition. Egypt has an amazing mixture of Arab, African and Mediterranean influences, which all contribute to a society that is hectic and confusing but ultimately fascinating.

Egypt is home to 20 public universities and a further 23 private institutions offering graduate programs. Many universities are based in the capital Cairo. A growing trend in Egypt is for foreign universities to set up satellite campuses in the country. For example, Egypt is also home to the British University in Egypt and the American University in Cairo, which both deliver programs taught entirely in English.


The Islamic Republic of Iran is a country of beauty, diversity, and a long, rich history. The official language of Iran is Persian, though it's quite common to hear spoken languages that include Persian, Arabic, Turkmen, Gilaki, Kurdish, Armenian and more. Iran is the 18th largest country in the world with a population of nearly 77 million. It is one of the oldest civilizations in the world dating back to 2800 BC.

Iranian universities are best known for their programs in chemistry, medicine, engineering and physics. Many foreign students come to Iran to study the culture and history of the region. Post-secondary admission in Iran is highly competitive for state funded colleges. Students who earn admission to universities do not typically pay for tuition or boarding except those attending Islamic Azad University, which is self-funded and therefore independent of the state budget.


From biblical times to present day, this little slice of holy land has long attracted visitors with its alluring sights and Mediterranean climate.

Israel’s landscapes are diverse, meaning that there is something out there for everyone. Mountains, deserts and fertile valleys can all be found, while the Dead Sea, Red Sea, Sea of Galilee and Mediterranean coastlines offer both unique geological sights and seaside resorts. 

The three major cities of Israel are Jerusalem, Tel Aviv and Haifa all with their own individual personalities and student experiences.

During its 68 years of existence, Israel has fast developed into an economy one renowned for its high-tech development, innovation and entrepreneurship – gaining the nickname ‘the start-up nation’, with its own version of the US Silicon Valley, the Silicon Wadi. In recent years, Israel has also been touted as the world’s next major biotech hub.

As you’d expect with all this innovation and development going on, Israel has a strong selection of highly reputed universities.


Despite its small size, Jordan offers a large amount of interesting and unique things to do and see as a study abroad destination. Located at the centre of Egypt and Mesopotamia, this country served as a crossroads, and has maintained cultural influences from both great civilizations.

Students who study abroad in Jordan will have the opportunity to see religion and modernity collide: ride a camel, float in the Dead Sea, visit ancient ruins in the city of Petra. Despite the number of historical and Biblical sights, students who thrive on energy won’t be bored - Jordan is home to a few modern cities, chock full of fun by day or night. Nestled between Israel, the Dead Sea, Syria, Iraq, and Saudi Arabia, students in Jordan should take advantage of traveling around the region on their free weekends.


Kuwait offers a rich heritage of history and tradition and one can gain much from studying there.

One of the best known institutions of higher learning in Kuwait is Kuwait University. It was originally established as a co-educational institution in 1966. It has five different campuses in Kuwait City and the number of students attending has increased dramatically from 400 at its inception to over 19,700 in 2006. The university offers a wide variety of courses, including a study of Business, Law, and Education.

Business and work-related skills are especially focused on in Kuwait today due to the great need for higher level skills to help the economy. Kuwait University and other schools focus mainly on business and law while the technical institutions focus on more vocational and workforce related skills.


Officially the Lebanese Republic, Lebanon is a small Middle Eastern country with a rich history and a diverse cultural identity. Although it has experienced a fair share of conflict and unrest, Lebanon has been enjoying increased prosperity of late. The country’s capital, Beirut, has become increasingly popular with foreign visitors, who are attracted by its fascinating culture and great nightlife. However, there are also many prestigious universities in Lebanon appealing to international students from around the world.

Lebanon is an ancient place with ruins and world heritage sites dotted along mountain valleys and along its coast. Beirut is an ancient city which owes much of its cosmopolitan atmosphere to its two most famous universities, the American University of Beirut and the Université Saint-Joseph, both of which foster close ties with the West. The city is also home to numerous private universities and the country’s only public university, the Lebanese University.


Oman may be small, but this state on the Arabian Peninsula is a powerhouse that rules over the sea. Oman has seen enormous development in the past 50 years and is considered one of the most developed countries in the Arab world. The country is marked by excellent infrastructure, rich culture, and a friendly populace that will enhance your study abroad adventure.

Oman has a unique Arab culture due to influences from Eastern Africa and India. The country’s cuisine features specialties from traditional Arabic food as well as Turkish, Pakistani, Lebanese and Indian. Seafood is prevalent and delicious, thanks to the country’s long coastline, and if you study in Oman you’ll even try shark, a local delicacy.

Students considering studying in Oman should be aware that the country is ruled by an absolute monarchy which strictly adheres to Islamic tradition. It may be necessary to adjust to unexpected gender norms and religious customs, however, this will also be an incredibly eye-opening experience. The people of Oman are known to be humble and hospitable, so take extra care to respect them and the local culture.


Qatar is a small Arabic country located on a peninsula in the Persian Gulf. The country has a border with Saudi Arabia. Major industries in Qatar include oil, natural gas and tourism. In addition, the capital, Doha, is home to the Al Jazeera news network. The country is very flat and made up of desert; the highest elevation in the country is only about 100 meters. Only about 40 percent of the population is Arabic, with the remaining population foreign nationals, primarily from India, Pakistan and Iran. Qatar has the highest GDP per capita in the world.

Qatar has one institute of higher education, Qatar University, established in 1973. However, many Western universities have branches in the country as part of the “Education City” established by the Qatar Foundation. The Education City includes both educational and research facilities and has the goal of being the educational centre of excellence in the Persian Gulf region. Currently about 2,500 students study at Education City; about half are Qatari nationals and the other half are international students. Faculty, staff and students in Education City hail from 45 different countries.

Saudi Arabia

Saudi Arabia is the home of Islam and is one of the most popular destinations for international students looking to study the theology of Islam. However, there is more to this wealthy Middle Eastern country than just religion. Saudi Arabia is home to one-fifth of the world’s oil reserves, making it a leading educator in the field of oil and gas engineering.

The Kingdom is also investing huge amounts in its universities in an attempt to attract more foreign students, with science and technology a particular area of interest. Whatever your motivation for study abroad, choosing a graduate program in Saudi Arabia will allow you to study in one of the world’s most unique countries.

Saudi Arabia is home to 24 government-run universities offering Masters and PhD programs, as well as several private colleges and departments. Men and women are taught separately in different institutions, with programs lasting four years in humanities and social sciences and between five to six years in medicine, engineering and pharmacy.

The most popular Masters for international graduates in Saudi Arabia are in finance, marketing, technology and religious studies. Many courses are taught in English, but it is worth having conversational Arabic as this will be useful in your day-to-day student life.  


Motivations to study in Turkey include the opportunity to gain a relatively inexpensive and good quality education, with opportunities for scholarships that also pay a monthly allowance, covering accommodation and tuition fees, health insurance and travel expenses.

Turkey is already a firmly established tourist destination, with nearly 40 million tourists visiting from all over the world in 2015 according to Invest in Turkey, making it the sixth most popular holiday destination. The Turkish government is keen to extend this popularity into the international student market, with a target of 100,000 international students by 2018.

The majority of Turkey’s top universities are located in either Ankara or Istanbul, Turkey’s two largest cities. In Ankara, you’ll find Bilkent University alongside others, while Istanbul is home to Bogaziçi Üniversitesi and more.

United Arab Emirates

The United Arab Emirates is a country on the south-eastern coast of the Arabian Peninsula, bordering Saudi Arabia and Oman. It is governed by the Federal Supreme Council, comprising of the seven emirs each controlling an area of the nation. The main export of the UAE is oil, which has been the primary contributor to the country’s massive economic boom in the past half century. The nation has a desert climate, which can lead to scorching days and freezing nights.

Dubai pulls travellers from the world over, with a host of spectacular modern architecture. The tallest building in the world, the Burj Khalifa and seven-star hotel the Burj Al Arab can both be found in the city. International visitors also enjoy the Wild Wadi water park and the huge indoor ski centre, Ski Dubai.

South of Dubai is the United Arab Emirates University, which is based on six campuses in the city of Al Ain. Modelled around the American education system, another university in the city of Sharjah was founded in 1997. Many of the courses and the library collections are in English.

Studying in the United Arab Emirates can certainly have its benefits: sun, sea, sand, potential tax-free earnings after graduation and some of the best universities in the Gulf region.