Tensions between Saudi Arabia and Canada affecting international students in the Maritimes

Click to play video 'Saudi students find out their scholarships are pulled weeks before fall semester' Saudi students find out their scholarships are pulled weeks before fall semester
WATCH: Escalating tensions between Canada and Saudi Arabia are being felt in the Maritimes. Hundreds of Saudi students have just found out their scholarships have been pulled. Alicia Draus looks into how this could impact students and schools in our region – Aug 7, 2018

Hundreds of students from Saudi Arabia attend universities in Nova Scotia but recent tensions between Canada and Saudi Arabia are putting that in jeopardy.

The majority of students who come to Canada from Saudi Arabia do so through the King Abdullah Scholarship Program.

In addition to tuition, the scholarship also pays students a monthly stipend, travel costs, health insurance, and language training.

But now, the Saudi government has said it is pulling the scholarship for students who study in Canada in response to growing tensions between the two countries. Over the weekend, Saudi Arabia asked Canada’s ambassador to leave the country, following Canada’s criticism of the arrest of women’s and civil rights activists in the Arab kingdom.

READ MORE: Arab states back Saudi Arabia in expelling Canadian ambassador over human rights dispute

According to the Association of Atlantic Universities (AAU), there are 109 students from Saudi Arabia enrolled in iniversity in New Brunswick, 42 in PEI and 785 in Nova Scotia.

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As of March, Dalhousie University had 212. In a statement emailed to Global News, Dalhousie said “[the University] values our Saudi students and their contributions to our community. We are assessing the situation along with Universities Canada and our university colleagues across the country.”

Saint Mary’s University estimated there are about 100 students from Saudi Arabia studying at their campus while there were 80 at Mount Saint Vincent during the winter semester. Both Universities say they too are working with Universities Canada to monitor the situation.

AAU said the Council of Atlantic Ministers of Education and Training recently updated the economic impact of international students in Atlantic Canada and found Saudi Arabia is second only next to China in the number of international students they send to the region.

READ MORE: Saudi Arabia cancels educational exchange programs after spat with Canada

“International students in the region have an annual impact of close to $800 million annually so that’s a significant amount of economic impact generated by international students,” said AAU executive director, Peter Halpin.

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University Canada is working with Ottawa to do a deeper analysis on the statement from the Saudi Arabia government, and the provincial Department of Labour and Advanced Education is also looking into the matter.

In an emailed statement, the department said “we continue to encourage and welcome all international students to come to Nova Scotia and attend our universities for their post-secondary education. This decision will likely have an impact on enrollment, but we are unsure of the extent at this point in time.”