• Saudi King Abdullah’s Foreign Scholarship Program sends thousands to the U.S.
  • Negotiating for grades is sometimes reported
  • Gender roles and norms are restrictive and prescribed

Scholarship Program: Of the approximately 60,000 Saudis currently studying in the U.S., fewer than 9,000 are self-sponsored. (Toumi, 2018) The remainder receive a full scholarship, including a monthly stipend for living expenses, from the Saudi government. The scholarship program was instituted by King Abdullah and is intended to provide Saudi citizens with top quality education in fields that the Saudi government deems important to its future. However, recent changes to the program have created a more onerous application process and Saudi students are much more restrictive in what schools they can attend and/or what majors they may study. It seems likely that Saudi numbers will continue to decline, and the program is scheduled to expire entirely in 2020. (Walcutt, 2016)

Negotiating for grades: It has been observed that some Saudi students are more inclined to barter for grades or a favorable outcome to a given situation. A student may go from office to office, seeking an acceptable answer. Alternatively, a student might be up front about bartering for a grade. It has been reported that a JMU student asked his professor how much it would cost for him to receive an A. The professor explained that such an arrangement was not appropriate in the U.S. and, in fact, could cause

the student to be brought before the Honor Council. Likewise, a Boise State University employee notes that “For some of you who have interacted with [Saudi] students oftentimes negotiation is accompanied by charm and a little bit of pressure.” (Redden, 2013) This cultural predisposition to negotiation might be seen as threatening and evolve into a student conduct issue. It is important to clearly state expectations and directly answer questions when a student seeks a solution to a problem or is asking for a favor.

Gender roles: In Saudi Arabia, interactions between non-familial males and females is forbidden by societal and, in some cases, legal rules. Until very recently, women were not permitted to obtain driver’s licenses, and most Saudi women do not work outside the home. Recently, Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman has been loosening rules regarding gender roles in the kingdom, but the reality remains that Saudi men and women will face very different cultural norms as students in the U.S. For example, in Saudi Arabia it is forbidden to shake hands with the opposite gender, school classes are segregated, and all Saudi women are required to have a male guardian - typically a father, brother, uncle or husband.

Back to Top