THE MINISTRY of higher education in Saudi Arabia has denied that it agreed to send hundreds of students to a new private college in Citywest, Dublin.
The Mansfield Group, headed by businessman Jim Mansfield, announced last week that it had secured a contract with the ministry under which 750 Saudi students would attend its new Citywest Institute of Education.
The company said this was the institute’s “first contract” and was worth “in the region of €250 million to Citywest and the local community” over the next 6½ years.
But in a statement on the ministry of higher education’s website, ministry deputy for scholarship affairs Dr Abdullah Al Mosa said the Citywest institute was “not recommended by the ministry and never was contracted”.
Dr Al Mosa said: “The claim that 750 students are going to study English at Mansfield Group’s Citywest institute is far from real.”
A spokesperson for Mr Mansfield said yesterday that neither he nor anyone from the group was available for comment “at this time”. Mr Mansfield is the owner of the Citywest Hotel and conference centre and the Weston Aerodrome in Baldonnel, Co Dublin.
The Department of Education, which stressed it had “no involvement whatever’’ with the proposed Citywest institute, was alerted to the statement by the Saudi ministry yesterday.
The proposed Citywest institute is due to operate from the former Citywest retail shopping centre, which has failed to attract sufficient tenants.
The Mansfield group is seeking planning permission which would see the centre converted into a 66-classroom college.
It has applied to South Dublin County Council for permission for change of use. A decision on the application is due on March 25th.
In its press statement on February 19th, the Mansfield group said the Saudi ministry “had been seeking a suitable location to establish an international hub for English-language and other courses for some time. After extensive global site evaluation and thorough analysis, the Saudis selected the south Dublin facility as the location that met the standards required by the .”
It said the programme would see “750 Saudi students undertake English language and preparatory third-level courses” at the purpose-built campus.
Each student, it was claimed, would bring an estimated €30,000 to the institute and the local economy. The project also promised to generate 300 jobs, including 100 teaching posts.
It is understood the County Dublin Vocational Education Committee was asked by the Mansfield group to provide English-language and integration education to the students of the institute.
The Department of Education was keen to distance itself from the initiative with a spokesperson saying that it “is not involved in bringing the project here”.