Athlone Institute of Technology has signed an agreement with the Technical Vocational Training Corporation (TVTC ) of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, which will see more than 440 Saudi students come to the Midlands over the next four years.
The agreement, which was co-signed by the presidents of the institutes of technology in Athlone, Galway, and Waterford, will see over a thousand students enter Irish higher education between now and 2013, with some 110 students due to register at AIT this September at the start of the four-year programme.
The students will initially undertake one year of English language tuition, after which they will transfer to a variety of three-year degree courses (Level 7 ). Their degree studies will be in areas as varied as engineering, renewable energy, software, business, accounting, financial services, and tourism studies. The students will be funded under the King Abdullah scholarship programme.
A similar intake of students will happen in 2011, 2012 and 2013. The scholarship scheme also funds the wives of the Saudi students to attend the three institutes of technology, where they will attend English language classes in their first year. There is provision in the agreement for the contract to be extended by a further four years if all parties are happy with progress achieved during the initial period.
AIT President, Professor Ciarán Ó Catháin, said that this agreement was “the result of several years”relationship-building in the Middle East by the three institutes of technology. It is also an important milestone in signalling the quality of Irish higher education to an international audience and showcasing our growing reputation as an innovation island. This will enrich the educational experiences of all students in Athlone, Galway, and Waterford and provide a global learning and research environment on each of our campuses.”
He continued: “AIT has prioritised the internationalisation of its college community, with the result that overseas students comprise more than10 per cent of full-time learners. We registered 25 Saudi students last September and their experience has been overwhelmingly positive. They have adjusted to life in the Irish midlands and have integrated very well into the local community. The visit to AIT by the Saudi ambassador last week was a further step in the strengthening of these relationships.”
TVTC is a government institution which is responsible for development of the workforce in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia in both technical and vocational education.