'It leaves a big hole:' VIU expects Saudi Arabian students to leave country

By Ian Holmes
August 7, 2018 - 4:43pm

93 Saudi Arabian students won't be studying at VIU in the fall after all, following a disagreement between Canada and the Middle Eastern kingdom.Vancouver Island University

NANAIMO — Vancouver Island University's dean of international students called the pending departure of nearly 100 Saudi Arabian students a significant loss for the school and community.

Graham Pike said it is their understanding all 93 Saudi Arabian students slated to study at VIU for the fall semester will be forced to leave Canada shortly. It's believed more than 15,000 scholarships for Saudi Arabian students studying at colleges and universities across Canada will be canceled, following a spat over human rights between Canada and the Middle Eastern kingdom.

Pike said it's hoped VIU advisers and counselors can meet with their impacted students this week.

“We are trying to support the individual students as best we can,” Pike told NanaimoNewsNOW. “We want to hear what their issues and concerns are so we can provide the best supports that we can in the circumstances.”

Pike said many of their Saudi Arabian pupils studied at VIU for several years and were highly regarded.

“They are very popular students,” Pike said. “To lose that number from one culture certainly diminishes the diversity that we have on the campus and in our classrooms.”

Pike said the sudden loss of an entire student population from one country will create a void felt not only at the school, but across the community both socially and culturally.

He said their 93 outgoing Saudi Arabian students represented the seventh or eighth leading country of VIU's 2,300 international student population. He said 80 of the Saudi Arabian students enrolled for their fall semester are sponsored by their government, but said some of their 13 non-sponsored students have also been told to leave Canada.

Pike said firm details and direction is anticipated to come from the Ottawa-based Saudi Arabian Cultural Bureau.

In addition to disruptions for the students, and a hit to VIU's diversity, the school also stands to absorb a notable financial loss. VIU is set to lose more than $650,000 in critical international student tuition fees in the fall semester alone.

The diplomatic dust-up between Canada and Saudi Arabia appears to be over a tweet from Global Affairs Canada on Friday, which called on Saudi Arabia to "immediately release" recently arrested civil and women's rights activists.


— With files from the Canadian Press


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