Saudi Arabian students pulled from Canadian post-secondary schools

Published On August 8, 2018 | By ajeffrey | News, Politics

Schools like the University of Toronto are facing the withdrawal of all Saudi Arabian international students, by orders of the Saudi government (Source: Wikimedia Commons – Jphillips23)

Andrew Jeffrey

Saudi Arabian students are facing an untimely end to their studies in Canada.

Earlier this week, the Saudi Arabian government announced it would withdraw every student it had been sponsoring to attend Canadian post-secondary schools. This came in retaliation to Canada’s criticism of Saudi Arabia’s crackdown on human rights activists over the weekend.

Now, thousands of Saudi Arabian students on scholarships, grants or in trainee programs funded by Riyadh, and the families that accompanied them in their move to Canada, will be removed and placed in study programs in other countries with similar education systems like the United States or United Kingdom.

“We’re disappointed and concerned that students are caught in this situation,” Colleges Ontario spokesperson Rob Savage said in an email statement. “We hope the issues can be resolved quickly and the students will be able to complete their programs.”

The Saudi kingdom was upset about comments made by Canadian Foreign Ministry on Twitter, criticizing the arrests of activists in Saudi Arabia.


In 2017-18, 327 students from Saudi Arabia attended McGill University, making up the fifth highest contingent of international students in the school’s population. The University of Toronto announced that 77 students from Saudi Arabia, both new and returning, were set to attend this fall, but will be forced to withdraw. As well, the university reports that 216 post-graduate medical trainees from Saudi Arabia at the U of T will withdraw too. The U of T has trained about 1,000 Saudi-sponsored doctors since 2000.

These schools have not yet announced what this will mean economically to their institutions after the loss in tuition from these international students.

Humber College on the other hand won’t see any of its students affected by this move, but Humber’s Communications Director Andrew Leopold offered his support to the students being forced out of their classes.

“International students are an important part of the Humber community. We are here to support all of our students,” Leopold said. “We hope the issues can be resolved quickly and affected students at Ontario colleges and universities will be able to complete their programs. As a result of changes to the King Abdullah Scholarship Program made in 2015, Humber hasn’t received any new students receiving KASP funding for the past few years.”

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