Update: Saudi Arabian students at UVic

Here’s what’s new since August

File photo by Belle White, Photo Editor.

On August 6, the Saudi Arabian government announced it would be withdrawing all Saudi nationals studying at Canadian universities. The announcement was made after Chrystia Freeland, Minister of Foreign Affairs, criticized the Saudi government’s human rights record on Twitter.

In August, the Martlet reported that 34 Saudi students (23 undergraduate and 11 graduate) were registered at the University of Victoria between September 2017 and April 2018.

So, whatever happened to those students? Were they all government-sponsored and therefore required to leave? Are there any Saudi nationals still in attendance at UVic? We did our best to find out, although information on the subject was not easily accessible.

Originally, there were 23 undergraduate and 10 graduate Saudi students registered for the 2018 winter session at UVic. Following the Saudi Arabian government’s announcement, these numbers decreased to 15 undergraduate and five graduate students registered for UVic’s 2018 winter session.

Numbers for the 2019 spring semester remain unknown.

Prior to their departure, six Saudi PhD students were able to complete their dissertations through an accelerated oral-defence process.

According to Tricia Best, UVic’s associate director of International Student Services, several Saudi students had to leave Canada quickly.

“The university formed a working group to assist UVic students from Saudi Arabia,” says Best. “The group created an information webpage … and held two information sessions for Saudi students to assist them with their departure from UVic and Canada.”

Some students returned to Saudi Arabia, while others relocated to other universities in the United States and Australia.

“We worked, as we would with any student in this type of situation, to expedite their student records and provided advice about finishing their coursework and how to register at other universities,” says Best.

Prior to their departure, six Saudi PhD students were able to complete their dissertations through an accelerated oral-defence process.

However, “no academic requirements or standards were compromised while doing so,” says Best.

At time of writing, the relationship between Canada and Saudi Arabia remains “fractured,” according to Freeland’s briefing notes, obtained by Global News under access to information laws.

On Nov. 30, Freeland announced that Canada is sanctioning 17 Saudi officials believed to be “directly involved or complicit” in the murder of Washington Post journalist Jamal Khashoggi, in early October of this year. However, the Canada-Saudi Arabia arms deal remains active.

With files from Natasha Simpson.

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