A plan to draw further students from Saudi Arabia to add to those attending third level colleges in Ireland, including the Galway Mayo Institute of Technology, is likely to boost local economies and lead to investment in Irish business in the long-term, according to a government minister.
Announcing new agreements between the Irish and Saudi Arabian governments to train Saudi students in vocational skills in three additional Irish colleges this week, Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Innovation Batt O’Keeffe also announced that the Galway-Mayo Institute of Technology has been approved for Masters Level Nine programmes under the ‘King Abdullah Scholarship Programme’, a further qualification to the existing approved Bachelor degree programmes.
Minister O’Keeffe, who was leading an Enterprise Ireland trade mission to the Middle East this week with 45 Irish firms, aimed at developing exports and international education links, also suggested that “Saudi students could become ambassadors for Ireland” and that the additional training could provide a boost for local economies.
“Galway-Mayo Institute of Technology, Athlone Institute of Technology, and Waterford Institute of Technology already have working arrangements with the Saudi authorities for vocational training and education,” he said.
“Between them, they have 150 Saudi students studying degree programmes across a range of areas including construction, engineering, software, and financial services. These new agreements with the institutes of technology in Cork, Carlow, and Blanchardstown 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, adding that 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 goal is 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. Approximately 800 Saudis are studying in Ireland and it is estimated they are worth some €20 million to the economy annually,” said the Minister.
Enterprise Ireland is the body responsible for promoting the Education Ireland brand overseas.