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Lincoln College lands £250 million deal to run three colleges in Saudia Arabia

An English FE college has beaten international competition to land a multi-million pound contract to run colleges in Saudia Arabia.

Lincoln College, which has 10,000 students across three campuses, had to compete against 50 other applicants from across Europe, North America and Australasia for the £250 million deal.

It will now be responsible for running three autonomous colleges being set up in Saudia Arabia as part of the country’s ambitious 'Colleges of Excellence' programme.

Ten colleges have already opened under the programme, which aims to upgrade Saudia Arabia’s vocational education and training system,.

Lincoln College will be responsible for three of the 26 colleges in the second wave; two all-male colleges Lincoln Al Aflaj Male College of Excellence and Lincoln Al Muzahmiya College of Excellence, and an all-female college, Lincoln Al Aflaj Female College of Excellence.

Simon Plummer, MD of Lincoln College International, said it was “fantastic news” for the college, which is rated outstanding by Ofsted.

“We aim to replicate the success we’ve had in the UK in Saudi Arabia and help the 40 per cent of under-30s who are currently unemployed to find jobs,” he said.

The new colleges, located south of the Saudi capital Riyadh, will have a focus on developing English language skills in a vocational context.

But Mr Plummer said staff and students in the UK will also benefit from the deal as surpluses from the five-year contract will be used to improve facilities at the college’s UK campuses.

The college will initially employ 100 staff, the majority of whom will be UK residents, to work across the three colleges, and there will be further recruitment drives in December and April.

It also wants to attract companies based in the East Midlands to provide the services and equipment it needs to run the colleges in Saudi Arabia, such as web development and branding, translation services, furniture and IT.

Lincoln is the latest in a growing number of UK-based colleges and training providers expanding into emerging markets for vocational education.

Four of Saudia Arabia’s existing Colleges of Excellence are run by UK organisations; three by TQ Education & Training and one by the Nescot Consortium, founded by the North East Surrey College of Technology, while others have ventured into the Far East and South America.

Last year Universities and Science minister David Willetts praised the “entrepreneurial spirit” of British colleges in seeking to expand abroad.

However, the University and College Union has warned there is a danger that colleges could “lose sight” of their domestic students in the rush to establish international brands.

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