Training Saudi Arabia’s health leaders of tomorrow – the Saudi Health Program

The start of the 2009 academic year sees the enrolment of 33 future health leaders of Saudi Arabia into the first year of their Bachelor program. They join 36 others about to commence their second and third year of study.

Since 2005, the Saudi Government has entrusted the training of its health professionals to the University of Sydney. The Saudi Health program commenced in October of that year when the first cohort of 60 students arrived in Australia as graduates fresh from high school.

Mohsen with 3 students

“In total 157 Saudi students are part of the program”, says Mohsen Soliman, Saudi Health Program Coordinator and Manager – International Relations with the Office for Global Health. “The Saudi Health Program is a comprehensive offering which commences with English language training at the Centre for English Teaching (CET) at the University of Sydney. The students then undertake the University of Sydney Foundation Program at Taylors College to ensure that they are adequately prepared for the rigors of study at the University of Sydney, before proceeding to a Bachelor degree. We very much hope that they make excellent progress thru their Bachelor programs and expect that some will make it into our highly competitive graduate-entry medicine and dentistry programs.”

Learning English

Celebration of EID 2007

“Students are also prepared for their program through an intensive week-long orientation program in Saudi Arabia where the differences in study and lifestyle are explained and discussed”, says Mohsen. “This assists their transition enormously as does our video on life in Australia presented by the Saudi students themselves”.

Alaa Aqeela and manar Students separating DNA

The Saudi Health Program students are enrolled in a range of Faculty of Health Science and Faculty of Science programs. These include Faculty of Health Science Bachelor programs in Radiation Therapy, Occupational Therapy, Health Sciences, Speech Pathology and Nuclear Medicine and Faculty of Science Bachelor programs in Science and Technology, Molecular Biology and Genetics and the highly competitive Bachelor of Medical Science.

Ahmed Almir

Ahmed Almir is in his second week of the Bachelor of Pharmacy. “First year pharmacy has 290 students and only 30 are internationals and no other Saudis so I get lots of opportunity to speak English. There is a high demand for pharmacists in Saudi Arabia - right now, the vast majority of pharmacists in Saudi Arabia are not Saudis, only 10% would be locals. I think I can make a good contribution to the industry”, says Ahmed. “At first I thought I wanted to study in the US, but I made the decision to study at the University of Sydney because it has a great reputation, I am sure this will be good for my future.”

“We are expecting a lot from the new enrolees - those enrolled in second and third year are achieving the extremely solid results of credits and distinctions,” says Mohsen.

Another 65 students are currently completing their Foundation Studies – they too have a hard act to follow. Three Saudi students achieved a final GPA greater than 8.5 which place them on the top 20% of the graduated Cohort.

Louise Freckelton
March 2009

For more information see the Saudi Health program, or contact Mohsen Soliman.