Ministers tell of motorsport hopes
Stormont political leaders have flagged up the potential for Northern Ireland researchers to help boost international motor racing.
This came as First Minister Peter Robinson and Deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness began a five-day business mission to the United Arab Emirates and India.
The first leg of the trip saw discussions at Abu Dhabi's Formula One race track on Yas Island, where the University of Ulster's Sports Academy has been working in collaboration with the Automobile & Touring Club of the UAE (ATCUAE) to develop new standards within motor racing.
The talks were aimed at further development of their relationship, including the prospects for a jointly taught undergraduate sports management degree in the United Arab Emirates (UAE), which would be accredited by the university.
Mr Robinson said: "The opportunity for the co-delivery of an undergraduate course in sports management will further enhance Northern Ireland's relationships in the Gulf region and fits in with the Executive's strategy to increase internationalisation."
Mr McGuinness praised the role played by the University of Ulster Sports Academy, saying: "The fact that young drivers who emerge with success from the UAE Motorsport Star Programme come to the Jordanstown campus to be groomed for elite motor sport speaks volumes about our expertise."
In 2010 the university signed a research and training agreement with the ATCUAE creating the opportunity for UAE-based students to undertake research at Masters and PhD level at the university.
Last year the launch of the competitive UAE Motorsport Star Programme established a training course at Jordanstown for emerging drivers.
President of the ATCUAE Mohammed Ben Sulayem said: "We are delighted to have this strong, mutually beneficial relationship with the University of Ulster, and believe it will continue to grow in years to come."
University of Ulster vice chancellor Professor Richard Barnett, who joined the ministers for their discussions, said: "The ministers' visit to the UAE to support the University of Ulster and Northern Ireland education and business interests in the region has helped us move along the negotiations for the delivery of the first ever jointly taught sports management undergraduate course and I am confident we will be in a position to make an announcement in the near future."