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Saudi Arabia: New university to solve problem of expats

FRUITFUL COOPERATION: Gammon Group Chairman Sheikh Rafik Mohammed with Prince Faisal bin Saud bin Musaed.

Realizing the decades-old dream of expat parents, a Saudi business group led by Prince Saud bin Musaed has taken the initiative to open an international university in Jeddah, offering degrees in engineering, automobile mechanics and business management.

The new university is a joint venture between Gammon Saudi Arabia and the Bangalore-based Bapuji Institute of Science & Technology,

said Sheikh Rafik Mohammed, chairman of Gammon Group, who is confident that it would be a cent percent successful project.

“There are more than 10 million foreign workers and their families in the Kingdom,” Mohammed said, adding that they lack a university required for the higher education of their children. At least 300,000 expat children leave the Kingdom every year for higher education.

Prince Faisal bin Saud will sign an agreement with Ganesh Shivashankarappa, CEO of Bapuji Institute and managing director of Shamanur Group in Davangere, next month to establish the university, which will be the first such university in the Kingdom.

Mohammed stressed Prince Saud’s desire to strengthen the Kingdom’s higher education sector by bringing reputable international universities and institutes to the country with the support of the Saudi leadership and Education Ministry. The university will have 13 colleges in the initial stage offering courses in B.Com, BBM, MBA, civil, mechanical, electrical, electronic, automobile, and communication engineering, information technology and architecture. Medical courses will be provided at a later stage.

The new university will target Saudis as well as children of expat workers including Indians, Pakistanis, Sri Lankans, Filipinos, Egyptians, Yemenis and Sudanese in addition to GCC citizens. English will be the medium of instruction.

Speaking about Shamanur Group, the Gammon chief said it operates a vast chain of educational institutions including medical and engineering colleges in India. “It has over 60 years of experience in providing quality education,” he added.

“This is going to be a 100 percent successful project because there is need for higher education facilities for foreign students in the Kingdom. The Saudi government intends to provide the best education and training to its citizens and has sent more than 200,000 Saudis on foreign scholarships to study at reputable international universities,” Mohammed said.

“Our intention is to bring those famous international campuses to the Kingdom so that Saudis as well as expatriates could receive world-class education inside the Kingdom,” he said, adding that the project would require an initial investment of SR1 billion. 

Admission will be provided through online application, after verifying certificates and conducting entrance exams. The new Jeddah university intends to establish cooperation with US, Canadian, European and Australian universities.

Mohammed said the university project would boost foreign investment as it would encourage more foreign investors and skilled workers to come to the Kingdom.

“There is a good market for education and health in the Kingdom. After Class XII, expat students are forced to leave the Kingdom due to lack of higher education facilities. This is a big problem facing expats. Many of them do not like to send their daughters away for education.”

In a wide-ranging interview with Arab News, the Gammon chairman highlighted the strength of Saudi economy and its investment-friendly environment.“Saudi Arabia is the best place for investors as it gives them good returns. Large population, vast area, huge oil wealth, strong currency, security and strategic position make it a very attractive place for foreign investors,” he explained.

The Gammon chief commended the incentives offered by the Saudi government to foreign investors. “When other countries provide free-zone facilities for foreign investors in a corner, Saudi Arabia offers them such facilities in all parts of the country with full ownership of their investment.”

However, he pointed out that foreign companies should add value by transferring new technologies to the Kingdom and should focus on products and services required by the country. 

“I have visited several countries and found Saudi Arabia as an ideal place for investment,” he added. Industries operating in remote cities are entitled to soft loans worth 75 percent of the project value for 20 years.

Mohammed also spoke about Gammon’s plan to take part in the construction of four new towers in Dammam. “We have received an invitation from a UK company to join a mega project to establish 99 free zones,” he said.

Gammon was successful in bringing several international companies to Jazan Industrial City, which covers an area of 90 sq. km. “The Jazan project is progressing well. Foreign companies have got licenses to establish their industries.”Source: arabnews