​​​​​​PhD Degree Admissions and IDB Scholarship 2017 at the King Abdullah University of Science & Technology, Saudi Arabia

Publish Date: Dec 12, 2016

Deadline: Jan 06, 2017


Ph.D. students apply for and enter a specific degree program. A faculty advisor is either immediately designated (in the case of a student being recruited by a specific faculty member) or temporarily assigned; in the latter case, the student is expected to identify a research advisor by (at the latest) the end of the first year.

There are three phases and associated milestones for Ph.D. students:

  • ​Passing a qualifying exam;
  • Passing an oral defence of the dissertation proposal
  • Dissertation phase with a final defense milestone.

Ph.D. Degree Requirements

Ph.D. program requires the successful completion of at least 96 credit hours, (inclusive of previous Masters Degree coursework). Qualification and advancement to candidacy are contingent upon: (i) successfully passing Ph.D. coursework, (ii) designating a research advisor, (iii) successfully passing a qualifying exam, and (iii) writing and orally defending a research proposal. Possible outcomes include pass, failure with complete retake, failures with partial retake, and failure with no retake. Students not permitted to retake the exam, or who fail the retake, will be dismissed from the University. The maximum allotted time for advancement to candidacy for a student entering with a M.S. degree is two years; three years for students entering with a B.S.

Satisfactory participation in KAUST's Summer Session and Winter Enrichment Period (WEP) is mandatory. Summer Session courses are credit bearing and apply toward the degree. WEP courses do not earn credit towards the degree.

The required coursework is outlined below:

M.S. Degree

  • Core courses
  • Elective courses 
Ph.D. Degree
  • Two or more courses at the 300 level
  • Graduate seminar if required by the program.
Students entering the program with a relevant M.S. from another institution may transfer coursework toward the requirements of the M.S. degree listed above upon approval of the program.

Students entering the program with a M.S. from KAUST may transfer coursework toward both the M.S. and Ph.D. requirements listed above upon approval of the program and based on their program of study at KAUST. 

Students entering with a B.S. from another institution may transfer in up to 9 credits of graduate level coursework towards the above requirements upon approval of the program. In addition, students entering with a B.S. may also qualify to earn a M.S. degree by satisfying the MS degree requirements as part of the Ph.D. program.

Some degree programs may require a diagnostic entrance exam as a basis for admission, and students may be required to complete additional coursework depending on their degree-granting institution. If the M.S. degree is from a subject other than the Ph.D. degree program, there may be additional courses required and specified by the advisor. 


Achieving Ph.D. candidacy is contingent upon successfully passing a qualifying examination, acceptance by the research advisor of a written research proposal and successfully passing an oral examination. Details should be confirmed in the individual degree program material.

Passing the qualification phase is achieved by acceptance of all committee members of the writtesn proposal and a positive vote of all but, at most, one member of the oral exam committee. If more than one member casts a negative vote, one retake of the oral defense is permitted if the entire committee agrees. A conditional pass involves conditions (e.g., another course in a perceived area of weakness) imposed by the committee, with the conditional status removed when those conditions have been met. Once constituted, the composition of the qualification phase committee can only be changed upon approval by both the faculty research advisor and the division dean.

Dissertation Research Credits

Besides coursework (6 or more credit hours), dissertation research (course number 397) must be earned during the first (proposal preparation and defense) and second phases of the Ph.D. program. A full-time workload for Ph.D. students is considered to be 12 credit hours per semester (courses and 397) and 6 credit hours in summer (397 only). There is a minimum residency requirement (enrolment period at KAUST) of 2.5 years for students entering with an M.S. degree, 3.5 years for students entering with a B.S. degree. The maximum enrolment period is 5.0 years, extendable upon approval of both the faculty research advisor and the division dean.

Dissertation and Dissertation Defense

The Dissertation Defense is the final exam of the Ph.D. degree. It involves a public presentation of the results of the dissertation research followed by a question and answer session. The Dissertation and Defense committee consists of 4 members of which at least 3 must be KAUST faculty members. The committee Chair plus one other member must be an affiliated faculty member. The committee must also include one external examiner who must write a report on the thesis and attend the thesis defense. Qualified Visiting Professors may be involved as on-campus committee members. It is the responsibility of the student to inform the dissertation committee of his/her progress and meet deadlines for submitting defense date and graduation forms. It is expected that students will submit their dissertations to their committee six weeks prior to the defense date in order to receive feedback from the committee members in a timely manner. However, the advisor may approve exceptions to this expected timeline. The dissertation format requirements are described in the KAUST Thesis and Dissertation Guidelines.

The result of the defense will be made based on the recommendation of the committee. There are four possible results: (1) Pass: the student passes the exam and the dissertation is accepted as submitted; (2) Pass with revisions: the student passes the exam and the student is advised of the revisions that must be made to the text of the dissertation; (3) Failure with retake: normally this means the student must do more research to complete the dissertation. The student must revise the dissertation and give another oral examination within six months from the date of the first defense; and (4) Failure: the student does not pass the exam, the dissertation is not accepted, the degree is not awarded, and the student is dismissed from the University.

Program Descriptions

The Master's and Doctoral degree program requirements listed above represent general university-level expectations. The specific details of each degree requirements are outlined in the descriptions of the individual degree programs.

IDB Scholarship

About the Program

Scholarships sponsored jointly by King Abdullah University of Science and Technology (KAUST) and the Islamic Development Bank (IDB) to study at KAUST.

The IDB-KAUST PhD Scholarship Program was established in 2012 within the scope of the IDB Merit Scholarship Program and the KAUST PhD Program. Under the scholarship program, citizens of IDB member countries are eligible to apply for the scholarship to study at KAUST for a full-time 4-year PhD. The Program is jointly funded by IDB and KAUST to award 5 scholarships annually. The scholarship is a fully funded program as per the KAUST rules and procedures will be supported throughout the eligible duration of the study program. Visit the KAUST Admissions page for PhD program details.


The candidate must be:

  • ​A citizen of an IDB member country (visit the IDB Merit Scholarship Program for a full listing of member countries)
  • Age not over 35 years
  • Engaged in full-time employment in an academic, research or development institute in the home country and the application is nominated by that institution
  • Meets the eligibility criteria of the IDB Merit Scholarship Program
  • Have a firm admission offer at the KAUST for a PhD program

Selection of candidates under this joint program will be within the scope of the IDB Merit Scholarship Program. Interested candidates must follow these criteria and procedures to apply for the scholarship. Information about IDB and KAUST is available from their respective websites.


Scholarship Division
Islamic Development Bank
Qasr Khuzam,
Al Malik Khalid Road,
Jeddah 21432,
Saudi Arabia
Tel. (9662) 646 6833 / 6835
Fax. (9662) 646 6887
website: www.isdb.org

If you have questions concerning admission to KAUST please email: admissions@kaust.edu.sa

For more official information click "Further official information" below.

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