Saudis deny Mansfield claim of €250m education contract
SAUDI authorities have denied that a business tycoon has been granted a €250m contract to run courses in Ireland for students from the wealthy Middle East state, write Laura Noonan and John Walshe.
The denial comes less than a week after Jim Mansfield announced plans to house 750 students at a school on his Citywest hotel site.
At the unveiling of his new Citywest Institute of Education, Mr Mansfield claimed he had already secured a major contract with the ministry of higher education in Saudi Arabia.
But the Saudi Minister for Scholarship Affairs, Dr Abdullah Al Mosa, has denied the claims.
A statement published on the Saudi ministry of higher education website in recent days says Dr Al Mosa "denied that [his] ministry has contracted with an Irish language institute. The claim that 750 students are going to study English at [the] Mansfield Group's City West Institute is far from real, Dr Al Mosa said," the statement continued.
Mr Mansfield's spokeswoman said yesterday she had "no comment" to make. The press officer who issued the original statement also said the institute was "unavailable for comment".
Publicity issued on the day claimed the contract was worth €250m and would run for six-and-a-half years from this April.
But even before the dramatic statement from the Saudi authorities, the plan was running into opposition in Ireland, among fears it would lead to a cultural ghetto.
The Department of Education and Science made little secret of the fact that it did not support the plan.