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New deal to send Saudi students to Irish colleges
Thu 4 Nov 2010 01:04 am filed by the Editor - Ireland, Saudi Arabia
'Joint agreement will boost economy and help to create local jobs'
The Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Innovation, Batt O’Keeffe TD, today [Wednesday] announced fresh agreements between the Irish and Saudi Arabian governments to train Saudi students in vocational skills in three Irish colleges.
The move will allow several hundred Saudi students to study in Carlow Institute of Technology, Cork Institute of Technology and Blanchardstown Institute of Technology in Dublin.
The students will travel to the Irish colleges under Saudi Arabia’s King Abdullah Scholarship Programme.
Minister O’Keeffe announced the new agreements after a meeting with the Governor of Saudi Arabia’s Technical Vocational Training Corporation (TVTC), Dr Ali Nasser Al Ghafis, in the Saudi capital, Riyadh.
Minister O’Keeffe is leading an Enterprise Ireland trade mission to the Middle East this week with 45 Irish firms aimed at developing their exports reach and international education links.
Announcing the agreements with the TVTC, Minister O’Keeffe said they would ‘build on our strong relationship with Saudi Arabia which considers Ireland among a small number of strategic partners in education’.
"Athlone Institute of Technology, Galway-Mayo Institute of Technology and Waterford Institute of Technology already have working arrangements with the Saudi authorities for vocational training and education.
"Between them, they have 150 Saudi students studying degree programmes across a range of areas including construction, engineering, software and financial services.
"The new agreements with the three institutes of technology will draw hundreds more Saudi students to Ireland under the well-funded scholarship programme where they will spend money in the local economy and help to create jobs.
"Significantly, too, Saudi students could become new ambassadors for Ireland and choose the country for key investments originating in the Middle-East North-Africa region which is our fastest-growing emerging market," said Minister O’Keeffe.
The Saudi government is dramatically ramping up efforts to upskill mainly because more than three out of five Saudis working in manufacturing are unskilled.
Over the next eight years, the TVTC wants to quadruple the number of trainers to 40,000 and raise the number of students in technical or vocational education to 500,000, including 100,000 women.
About 800 Saudis are studying in Ireland and it is estimated they are worth some €20 million to the economy annually.
Minister O’Keeffe said the partnerships agreed this week open the door to other Irish higher education institutions to develop relationships with the TVTC.
Minister O’Keeffe also held a bilateral meeting with Saudi Arabia’s Minister for Higher Education, Dr Khaled Al-Angari, in which they reaffirmed their commitment to developing education links between the two countries.
In particular, Minster O’Keeffe wants to place a cultural attaché in the Irish embassy in Dublin who would feed back Saudi students’ experiences in Ireland to the authorities there.
Enterprise Ireland is responsible for promoting the 'Education Ireland' brand overseas.
The chief executive of Enterprise Ireland, Frank Ryan, said: "International education is a sector that offers huge potential for growing Irish services exports and Saudi Arabia is a key market that we have targeted in recent years.
"The agreements today testify to the Saudi Government's satisfaction with the standard and quality of the education delivered by the Irish institutes of technology.
"This further strengthens our case as we continue to market Irish higher education abroad, not just in the Middle East but in the US, China and other markets with growth potential.
"The agreements will also provide a boost to the regional economies in which these institutes of technology are based." Meanwhile, at a meeting in the Ministry of Higher Education in Riyadh, Minister O'Keeffe received confirmation that Waterford Institute of Technology, Athlone Institute of Technology and Galway-Mayo Institute of Technology have been approved for Masters Level Nine programmes under the King Abdullah Scholarship Programme.
The three institutes are already approved for Bachelor degree programmes.