Nescot has led a consortium to secure a £75million contract to run Saudi Arabia’s first women-only vocational college.
Nescot is the founding partner of the group, which also comprises Highbury College in Portsmouth, Burton and South Derbyshire College, the University of Hull and Birmingham City University.
The three colleges all have female principals, and each partner has a reputation for excellence and the delivery of outstanding vocational and technical education in the UK, combined with significant experience of working internationally.
The college, which will be called The Nescot Consortium Jeddah Female College of Excellence, will offer courses in IT, Business Administration, Beauty, Fashion, and Jewellery Design.
Year one of programmes will focus on improving English language skills, and the curriculum is constructed through a mix of BTEC and Saudi national qualifications.
There will be 500 students enrolled in the first year, with a full capacity intake of 2,000.
A total of female staff will be recruited to teach at the college, as men are not permitted on site while students are in residence.
The contract was signed at the Ritz Carlton Hotel in Riyadh on Wednesday last week (June 12).
Nescot principal Sunaina Mann OBE delivered a keynote speech at the launch of the Colleges of Excellence programme on behalf of the consortium.
Gender segregation applies in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, with Mrs Mann the only female CEO taking part in this prestigious event.
“This is a fantastic opportunity for The Nescot Consortium, and we are all incredibly excited about the impact this college will have,” Mrs Mann said.
“The bid was highly complex, particularly with regard to the type of financial arrangements that were required by the Saudi Arabian government which included backing for the required contractual Bonds.
“Without the support of the team at UK Export Finance, The Department for Business, Innovation and Skills and, NESCOT’s local MP Chris Grayling, it may not have been possible for a consortium to embark on such a large project.
“UKEF have played their part in facilitating a highly valuable UK export that will undoubtedly put UK Further Education colleges on the map.”
Trade Minister Lord Green said: "This is really good news, and exemplifies the burgeoning demand from countries such as Saudi Arabia for the kind of quality education the UK can provide.
"UK education exports are currently worth more than £14bn every year, but we expect this to rise to £22.5bn by 2020 and to £27bn by 2025.
"To capitalise on this rapid growth UKTI and BIS have this year set up a new team - the Education UK Unit - focused on working in partnership with the sector to win more high value opportunities for the UK.
"I am delighted that the Unit worked closely with NESCOT to win this deal. Next month we will publish a long-term action plan to increase education exports as part of our industrial strategy."
The three colleges established a Limited Liability Company, which will oversee the day-to-day running of the women’s training institute.
The consortium was chosen from more than 500 global organisations which expressed an interest in running one of this first tranche of 10 vocational colleges in Saudi Arabia.
Each college has been specified and constructed by the Technical and Vocational Training Corporation (TVTC) of Saudi Arabia, which is a Saudi Government agency with responsibilities for the oversight and management of technical and vocational education delivery across the Kingdom.
The consortium will now operate a new purpose-built vocational and technical training facility in the Saudi Arabian city of Jeddah.
“The opportunity for women doesn’t stop at accessing equivalent qualifications to their Saudi male counterparts,” Mrs Mann added.
“We will be keeping a close eye on our gifted and talented students and will seek to recruit and train them to be the college’s teachers of tomorrow.
“We believe that recruiting, training and employing college alumni further enhances the economic regeneration opportunities provided by the college and will ensure that the college’s local footprint further feeds economic prosperity throughout its neighbouring communities.
“As the three FE Colleges managing the project have female CEOs and Principals we are passionate about this opportunity, as it will provide women across the city of Jeddah with the chance to gain vocational qualifications that will help them secure their rightful place within the Saudi workforce.”
The project also aligns to a UK Government initiative called Education UK announced by Skills Minister, Matthew Hancock in January.
Education UK is a joint venture between the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills, and UK Trade and Investment, and aims to promote UK education overseas.
At the time of the 2012 launch Mr Hancock said the initiative would specifically target rapidly-expanding markets such as the Middle East and India, with exports in this area able to generate £27billion annually by 2025.