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A collaborative initiative between Alfaisal University and King Abdullah University for Science and Technology.

MBBS-PhD / Clinician - Scientist Program



This innovative and highly competitive program between KAUST and Alfaisal builds upon the overarching aims of KAUST's Smart Health Initiative, launched by KAUST to establish novel and globally competitive programs to train the next generation of clinicians and scientists in Saudi Arabia. The expectation is that attendees of such programs will become experts and pioneers in leading the way to translate fundamental findings in the laboratory into diagnostic and treatment tools aimed at tackling various diseases with local and global impact.

The Clinician-Scientist program is a collaborative initiative between KAUST and Alfaisal University looking for the most competitive and capable medical graduates to undergo an intensive doctoral training process. Successful candidates will build upon their medical education at Alfaisal, and enhance their scientific and analytical skills during their training and education at KAUST. Successful candidates will be awarded both KAUST and Alfaisal supervision, as well as fully-funded studentships by KAUST.



Successful candidates will register for a Ph.D. at KAUST, following selection/approval of suitable research topics at KAUST with academic advisors and supervisors. The Ph.D. will be subject to requirements, governance, and regulations of the existing Ph.D. structure at KAUST.

Candidate selection, progress evaluation, and examination will be performed by the governing panel of the Clinician-Scientists partnership.


Admission to the program requires that the candidate:

Must hold an MBBS degree from Alfaisal University or must be in the internship year

- Must have no pending pre-internship coursework

- Must have a minimum cumulative GPA of 3.5 out of 4.0

- Must have no record of misconduct with the University

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

- ​Passing a qualifying exam

- Passing an oral defense of dissertation pre-proposal

- Passing an oral defense of the dissertation proposal

- Dissertation phase with a final defense milestone

Application process timeline:

July 25 through August 27, 2023

Application cycle opens for the Spring 2024 intake

September 1 through September 7, 2023

Screening of applications and interview invitations to shortlisted applicants

September 10 through September 28, 2023

Interviews for shortlisted applicants

October 1 through October 12, 2023

Acceptance letters are finalized and sent to selected candidates. Review of waitlisted candidates

January 2024 (Spring Semester)

Orientation and start of the program

Application Deadline

August 27, 2023

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How to Apply

Complete the following steps to apply:

1. Fill the Application Form

2. Attach all required items including:

- A latest draft of your CV indicating your academic and extracurricular achievements, as well as details of any publications, conference presentations achieved thus far​​;

- Copies of your academic transcripts; and

- An academic essay reflecting on your personal and research experiences to date. In this essay detail how your experience relates to your decision to pursue a clinician-scientist pathway, and what kind of ideas would you wish to pursue in your Ph.D. (Max 500 words).

The most qualified applicants will be invited to interview.

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Ph.D. Degree Requirements

KAUST's Ph.D. program requires a three and a half year residency for students entering with a bachelor's degree and two and a half years for students entering with a master's degree. Qualification and advancement to candidacy are contingent upon: (i) successfully passing Ph.D. coursework, (ii) designating an academic 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 master's degree is two years, and three years for students entering with a bachelor's degree.

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

The required coursework is outlined below:

- Two or more courses at the 300 level

- Presentation of a Graduate seminar

- Besides coursework (six or more credit hours), dissertation research (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 six credit hours in summer (397 only).



Achieving Ph.D. candidacy is contingent upon successfully passing a qualifying examination, acceptance of a written research proposal, and successfully passing an oral defense 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 written 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 academic advisor and the division dean.



Dissertation Research Credits

Besides coursework (six or more credit hours), dissertation research (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 six credit hours in summer (397 only). There is a minimum residency enrolment period at KAUST of 2.5 years for students entering with an master's degree, and 3.5 years for students entering with a bachelor's degree. The maximum enrolment period is five years, extendable upon approval of both the academic 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 four members of which at least three 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 dissertation and attend the 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 a 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 academic 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 program requirements listed above represent general university-level expectations. The specific details of each degree requirement are outlined in the descriptions of the individual degree programs.

Contact Info

Office of Graduate Studies and Research

College of Medicine, Alfaisal University

Application Form

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