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UK consortia win £850m college contracts in Saudi Arabia

Four UK education consortia have won contracts worth £850 million to establish 12 technical and vocational training colleges in Saudi Arabia as part of the government’s Colleges of Excellence programme.

Riyadh, Saudi Arabia's capital city. Photo: Edward Musiak.

The Colleges of Excellence programme aims establish over 100 colleges offering three-year diploma programmes

“A programme of this scale recognises the vital importance of vocational education in achieving sustainable, economic growth for Saudi Arabia”

The recently sealed deals will take the total number of colleges run by UK providers under the programme to 16 of the 37 already established to date, overall amounting to contracts worth over £1 billion to the UK economy.

The four contracts were awarded to The Oxford Partnership, a consortium comprising Activate Learning, GEMS Education Solutions and Moulton College; Lincoln College; Hertvec, a consortium led by Hertford Regional College; and FESA, a consortium of UK colleges and training providers.

The agreements were coordinated by UK Trade and Investment (UKTI) Education as part of the UK’s International Education Strategy and were signed during the Government’s Export Week, which aimed to encourage small and mid-sized businesses to sell overseas for the first time and break into new markets.

UK Minister for Skills and Enterprise Matthew Hancock, who visited Riyadh in January in support of the bids, called the deals “a vote of confidence” in the UK’s education system.

“I look forward to seeing the UK’s education and training presence continue to grow in Saudi Arabia and internationally,” he added.

As a joint venture of the Technical and Vocational Training Corporation (TVTC) and the Human Resources Development Fund (HRDF), the Colleges of Excellence programme aims to improve education and training in Saudi Arabia by establishing over 100 colleges. The three-year diploma programmes will include training in IT, communication, basic sciences and English language, before moving onto specialisation and on-the-job job training.

Ibrahim Al-Moaiqel, Director General of the HRDF in Saudi Arabia, said the initiative is “reaching out to the best of the best in the world, as partners of choice”.

“We are delighted that six UK institutions will be bringing their experience and expertise, and working with us to help shape future opportunities for our citizens,” he added.

The new colleges, opening by the consortia in September 2014, will cater to some 24,000 Saudi students every year, including 14,000 women.

The Oxford Partnership will manage a cluster of three women’s colleges in the north of the country, in the towns of Al Jouf, Arar and Qurayyat.

The new colleges, opening by the consortia in September 2014, will cater to some 24,000 Saudi students every year, including 14,000 women

Initially, the purpose-built facilities provided by the Saudi government will cater for 500 students per college, rising to 2,000 per college within five years.

Chris Kirk, chief executive officer of GEMS Education Solutions – part of the Oxford Partnership – commented: “A programme of this scale recognises the vital importance of vocational education in achieving sustainable, economic growth for the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia.”

“This is a programme that will work closely with employers – from its design to its delivery – linking learning to future employment opportunities,” he said.

UKTI Education is preparing to co-ordinate the UK’s response to further tenders opening this year with initial briefing sessions planned in London during the summer.

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