Local post-secondary schools monitoring Saudi situation

Local universities and colleges say they’re keeping an eye on the ongoing political dispute between Canada and Saudi Arabia.

Global Affairs Canada criticized the Saudi government last week over their detention of civil rights activists. In response, Saudi Arabia recalled its ambassador to Canada, expelled the Canadian ambassador and froze all new trade.

Canada is gravely concerned about additional arrests of civil society and women’s rights activists in #SaudiArabia, including Samar Badawi. We urge the Saudi authorities to immediately release them and all other peaceful #humanrights activists.

— Foreign Policy CAN (@CanadaFP) August 3, 2018

The kingdom also told students studying in Canada that it was suspending scholarships to Canadian universities and colleges.

There are approximately 400 Saudi students currently enrolled in programs at the University of Ottawa, Carleton University and Algonquin College, according to figures provided by those institutions.

Algonquin College says there are 74 Saudi students, 64 of which are sponsored. The other 10 are self-funded.

Carleton says they had 133 Saudi students in their winter programs and 95 in their summer programs. The University says they were expecting approximately 130 students this fall.

The University of Ottawa has 246 registered students from Saudi Arabiai, including medical trainees. 132 students are in graduate studies in science, engineering and medicine.

In a statement, Ernest Mulvey, Director, International Education Centre, at Algonquin College says, “We have had a strong relationship with the Saudi Arabian Cultural Bureau and will work with them and their sponsored students to meet the students’ current and future academic needs, whether that means students remain at Algonquin to complete their studies or transfer to another institution.”

Carleton University spokesperson Elizabeth Murphy says, “Carleton University is evaluating the impact of Saudi Arabia’s decision to recall Saudi scholarship holders studying in Canada. We are monitoring the situation closely and focusing on making sure our students are receiving the information and support they need.”

uOttawa spokesperson Véronique Vallée with uOttawa says, “Like all other Canadian universities, the University of Ottawa is monitoring the situation very closely. Our primary concern is the wellbeing of students.

“We are currently assessing the impact of a potential withdrawal of students coming from Saudi Arabia.”

Within uOttawa’s medical programs, there are 79 postgraduate medical students from Saudi Arabia who are either in fellowship or residency across a variety of disciplines.

An email sent to Saudi trainees Wednesday, obtained by CTV News, says the University of Ottawa and partner hospitals “are all advocating for a speedy resolution that will include a continuation of your training at uOttawa without any interruption.”

In the email, Vice-Dean of Postgraduate Medical Education Lorne Wiesenfeld says he is personally hopeful that all affected trainees from Saudi Arabia will be able to continue working and training on September 1, despite the calls from the Saudi government to have all students leave Canada by August 31.

“Until then, we will be continuing as ‘business as usual,’” Wiesenfeld says. “Therefore, please adhere to your scheduled clinical and academic duties until further notice.”

The loss of these international students can be costly.

According to each school’s websites, tuition costs for international students can range from $26,000 to $50,000 for undergraduate university programs. International tuition fees at Algonquin College range from $12,500 to $16,000 per academic year.

With files from CTV Ottawa's Stefan Keyes.