Saudi Arabia–Canada diplomatic dispute jeopardizes students

Saudi government withdraws scholarships, tells foreign students to leave Canada

Photo by Belle White, Photo Editor

Some students at the University of Victoria may struggle to continue their studies at UVic this fall after news broke on Aug. 6 that the Saudi Arabian government is planning to withdraw all government-sponsored Saudi nationals  currently studying at Canadian universities.

After Canada’s Minister of Foreign Affairs Chrystia Freeland tweeted a criticism of Saudi Arabia’s imprisonment of civil rights activists, the Middle Eastern country expelled Canada’s ambassador, announced it would freeze flights to Toronto, and targeted Canadian universities.

Saudi students constitute the fourth largest international cohort in Canada, with approximately 15 000 students studying on Saudi Arabian government scholarships. At UVic, 34 Saudi students (23 undergraduate and 11 graduate) were registered between September 2017 and April 2018.

“We find it to be incredibly regrettable that students, including people that we know, are being asked to leave Canada in reaction to a critical tweet,” said Pierre-Paul Angelblazer, Director of Outreach and University Relations at the University of Victoria Students’ Society. “International students not only enrich our campus but they also enrich their home countries when they move back.”

“We value all of our international students and are disappointed to learn that students from Saudi Arabia may not be able to achieve their educational aspirations at UVic,” said Jim Dunsdon, Associate Vice President of Student Affairs at UVic. “They bring a unique perspective and diversity to our community and enrich our campus population in many ways.

“However, it is really too early to tell what the implications are for the university and our Saudi Arabian students,” Dunsdon said.

This is a developing story and will be updated as more news comes in.

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