2010 press releases

Posted 1 March 2010

AIT Signs Agreement in Saudi Arabia

President of AIT, Prof. Ciarán Ó Catháin pictured with the Governor of TVTC, Dr Ali Al-Ghafis.
President of AIT, Prof. Ciarán Ó Catháin pictured with the Governor of TVTC, Dr Ali Al-Ghafis.

Athlone Institute of Technology (AIT) has today 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.

Two-hundred and seventy students will register in AIT, GMIT and WIT this September at the start of four-year programmes of study. Eighty students each will attend the institutes in Waterford and Galway, with 110 due to attend Athlone.

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 today’s 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. 

AIT’s relationship with the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia has flourished following a visit to Athlone by representatives of a body called GOTEVOT (previous incarnation of TVTC) in December 2006. That Irish trip was initiated by Enterprise Ireland. This was followed in January 2007 with a major EI Gulf trade mission led by the Taoiseach. These exchanges were the catalyst for developing strong relationships with the Ministry of Labour and Social Affairs in Saudi Arabia and particularly with the Technical and Vocational Training Corporation.

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