Saudi Arabia on Sunday said it has signed contracts worth SR2.68bn ($714m) to establish a number of new scientific colleges and improve facilities at universities in the Gulf kingdom.
Dr Khalid bin Mohammed Al-Anqari, the Minister of Higher Education, said the contracts included the setting up of scientific colleges in Umm Al-Qura University, Jazan University, Shaqra University, Taif University and Dammam University.
Saudi Press Agency reported that the deals would also include the completion of "major infrastructures" in King Saud University, Majma'ah University, Shaqra University and Qassim University.
Al-Anqari said the signing of contracts was the second phase of education projects launched by King Abdullah bin Abdulaziz Al Saud last year.
The first phase involved the development of more than 16 university cities with investment totalling SR81bn, SPA added.
Saudi Arabia said in 2010 it would allocate $533m to overhaul facilities at the kingdom’s universities, in addition to signing deals with foreign education providers to open up opportunities for national students to study abroad.
The move comes as part of the Gulf kingdom's plan to better educate its citizens and better prepare them for the workplace.
Around 90 percent of Saudis in work are employed by the government, while 90 percent of jobs in private companies are filled by around 8 million foreigners.
Expatriates tend to fill higher-paying technical roles for which many Saudis lack the experience, and very low-paying jobs that many Saudis see as menial.
In January, Labour Minister Adel al-Fakeih said the conservative Islamic kingdom needed to create 3 million jobs for Saudi nationals by 2015 and 6 million jobs by 2030, partly through the "Saudisation" of work now being done by expatriates.
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