Lowell Williams, Chief Executive Officer, Dudley College of Technology

Dudley College of Technology is disappointed to announce that we are discontinuing our work with Colleges of Excellence in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia.

On-going delays in receiving timely contractual payments have lead us to reach this difficult decision. It is a great shame as our work in Saudi Arabia has been both profitable and impactful, especially on the lives of young women in the Kingdom.

The College was initially encouraged to develop relationships in Saudi Arabia by the British Council and the Department for Trade and Industry who were seeking to export British expertise in technical education to the Saudi government in support of the Kingdom’s educational reform programme.

The College began work with the Saudi government in 2011. Initially the College provided leadership and management training, in both Saudi Arabia and the UK, for Deans of Saudi technical colleges operated by the Saudi government’s Technical and Vocational Training Corporation (TVTC).

More recently the College has delivered Capacity Building Contracts (CBCs) in Qatif Boys College in 2015 and in Hafr Al-Batin Girls College from September 2017, on behalf of the Saudi government’s Colleges of Excellence (CoE).

Under CBC projects Dudley staff are embedded into a Saudi college where they offer day to day support to managers and teachers. The CBC in Hafr Al-Batin Girls College was due to conclude in June 2020.

However, following a prolonged period of high level discussions with CoE, the College has taken the difficult decision to terminate the contract.

Speaking candidly Chief Executive Officer of Dudley College of Technology Lowell Williams explains the reasons leading to the decision to terminate the contract in Hafr Al-Batin:

Regrettably we have decided not to proceed with the next semester of our CBC project in Hafr Al-Batin Girls College. We feel we had no choice but to terminate this contract.

Despite the invaluable support provided by the UK’s Ambassador to the Kingdom and the Department for Trade and Industry, contractual payments remain in arrears to the value of £0.5m.

The position we find ourselves in is very frustrating. We believe we have been making a real difference to the lives of young women in the Kingdom, by broadening their career choices and helping prepare them for the world of work.

Our team has also helped to develop the professional capabilities of Saudi colleagues in Hafr Al- Batin, with whom they have worked so closely for the last 17 months.

Whilst we understand that governmental issues in Saudi might have contributed to delays in payments, unfortunately as a result CoE have breached their contract with us. On our part we have honoured our commitments under the contract in full.

It would not be appropriate for the College to use UK public funds to sustain the cash flow of the CBC project in Hafr Al-Batin Girls College. By terminating the contract at this point in time we are ensuring this is not the case.

Whilst much of our Saudi work has operated smoothly we had a similar difficulty in Qatif in 2015 when the CBC project which we started at CoE’s request was suspended on short notice. It took some time to recover the funds we had expended. We didn’t want to be in this situation again.

The College’s primary concern in reaching this decision is to protect the interests of our UK learners and to ensure they are not disadvantaged in any way.

We have always made it clear our international activity must be self-sustaining. We would not continue to trade at risk with any other partner if there were significant contractual arrears.

As a result of this termination I am sorry to say we will now have to enter into discussion with seven members of our staff who are currently based in Hafr Al-Batin.

We hope to avoid a redundancy situation by offering alternative employment in the UK or on the College’s wider international projects, wherever possible.

Since we began our work in Saudi Arabia we have generated an income of just over £3m which has delivered a surplus in the region of £0.5m.

Whilst we have never relied on these surpluses for our core college operations, they have been helpful in contributing to our recent c£60m investment in facilities and resources for learners in Dudley.

In the unlikely event that we are unable to recover the outstanding contracted sums, the College’s overall Saudi operations will have delivered a break even performance.

The decision to pull out of Saudi Arabia has clearly been a difficult one for us to make. We remain fully committed to our other flagship international projects, particularly our work in India with the UK India Education Research Initiative, which is in its sixth year, and our British Council funded projects in South Africa and Pakistan.

Lowell Williams, Chief Executive Officer, Dudley College of Technology 

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