In late October, The Irish Academy of Public Relations announced its joint venture with Orient Planet PR and Marketing Communications to create “the first ever online PR and Communications Academy in the Middle East” in a press statement. The academy will exclusively provide the Irish Academy’s courses to students in the Middle East, Levant and North Africa regions.
The signing of the agreement between Ellen Gunning, the Irish Academy’s director, and Nidal Abou Zaki, Orient Planet’s managing director, took place recently in London. Orient Planet Academy will facilitate internationally recognized certificate courses in public relations, marketing, journalism, event management and English grammar. The academy’s courses have been localized for the region and are flexible as they provide students the option of completing the course within the span of 10 to 20 weeks. “A student is required to finish 10 to 12 modules and pass all requirements before a certificate is awarded,” explains the statement.
Comprehensive textbooks of the Irish Academy will also be available at the new academy’s bookstore to help potential learners in their studies. The textbooks are specifically chosen to complement the course syllabus and to serve as additional references for students. The website also features educational videos for visitors.
In 2013, the value of the Middle East e-learning market was placed at $44 million as a result of concerted efforts to digitize education in the region. The sector also witnessed an average growth rate of 8.2 per cent per year, with revenues projected to reach $561 million by 2016. “The expansion can be attributed to several fundamental factors, one of which is the region’s move to transform itself into a knowledge-based economy,” adds the press statement.
According to the Arab Knowledge Economy 2014 report, produced by Madar Research and Development and Orient Planet, the Arab World recorded the largest growth in Internet users compared with other regions in the world since 2001. By 2017, the figure is expected to increase to about 197 million, while Internet penetration is projected to jump from 32 per cent in 2012 to over 51 per cent in 2017.
Ellen Gunning says in the statement: “The Irish Academy has an ever-growing footprint across Europe, the United States, Latin America and Africa. Over the years, we have seen the immense potentials of the online education market in the Arab World, and we believe now is the ideal time to establish our presence in the rapidly expanding industry. We entered into a joint venture with Orient Planet to form Orient Planet Academy to mark our expansion in the Middle East and serve a market of more than 314 million people through our comprehensive courses. Orient Planet Academy will be an added value to the growing industry. Initially, the courses will be taught in English with a view of offering them in Arabic in the coming few weeks”.
All five courses of Orient Planet Academy have been designed by the Irish Academy and will be tutored by communications professionals in the Middle East.