The University of Salford has become the first UK university to open a branch in the Kingdom of Bahrain.
The small island nation, off the east coast of Saudi Arabia in the Persian Gulf, has been home to a number of Salford academic programmes since 2015, when the university signed a deal with the Bahrain Institute of Banking and Finance.
Since 2014 the institution has ramped up expansion plans in the Middle East, opening an office in the United Arab Emirates.
The move means that the British College of Bahrain (BCB) will deliver seven undergraduate courses in engineering, quantity surveying and computer science on a new purpose-built campus.
The University of Salford say the course have been “specially selected to address skill shortages across Bahrain, as identified by the government”.
Amnesty International’s 2015/6 report on Bahrain found its government had a poor record of human rights abuses, with torture of political or religious dissidents still common.
The deal is likely to spark debate on the university’s implied endorsement of a government which still imprisons radicals and supports the death penalty.
A new campus in the small town of Janabiyah will welcome the first cohort of up to 100 students in September 2017.
Salford University says it has “plans for significant growth” in the following years.
It added that these courses are designed to encourage more Bahrainis and those from other Gulf nations to develop specific skills and knowledge for industrial design, the oil and gas sector and manufacturing and construction, where international workers normally provide these skills instead of home-grown workers.
Professor Helen Marshall, Vice-Chancellor of the University of Salford, said: “The British College in Bahrain will be a unique arrangement and is a great opportunity for both parties. It is a huge honour to have been asked to partner with the Bahraini Royal Family to launch this college.
“This is a fantastic opportunity to give young people in Bahrain and the Middle East the benefit of a world-class education and knowledge that The University of Salford can provide.
His Highness Shaikh Salman Bin Hamad Al Khalifa said: “Plugging the skills shortage is one of the key priorities for our country.
“The British College of Bahrain will hopefully offer up a huge range of opportunities for our young people to get the skills they need for the 21st century global marketplace, and contribute to continuing economic growth, without having to leave the country.”