Some Saudi Arabian students can now finish their Canadian degrees

Some Saudi Arabian students will be allowed to finish their degrees in Canada.

The Government of Canada has confirmed that Saudi undergraduate students in the final year of their degrees, graduate students and medical trainees will be allowed to complete their studies in Canada.

There is no update on whether thousands of other students in lower-level years of their degrees will be able to continue their studies in Canada following an intensifying diplomatic battle over Saudi treatment of detained activists, including UBC alumna Loujain Al-Hathloul.

On August 3, the Global Affairs Canada ministry tweeted that “Canada is gravely concerned about additional arrests of civil society and women’s rights activists in Saudi Arabia including Samar Badawi. We urge the Saudi authorities to immediately release them and all other peaceful human rights activists.”

A few days later, the Kingdom expelled the Canadian ambassador, cut off pending trade deals and suspended scholarships for over 10,000 Saudi students in Canada.

In September, Saudi students were ordered to leave Canada by the end of the month and were to transfer their scholarships to other allied educational programs in the United Kingdom and the United States.

UBC, which said it had 280 new and returning Saudi students attending this year, welcomed the new policy to allow some Saudi students to finish their studies.

“UBC is pleased that undergraduate and graduate students from Saudi Arabia in their final year of study will be permitted to complete their studies in Canada. We continue to work with those students to ensure they have the supports they require,” reads a recent statement from Vice-Provost and Associate VP Enrolment and Academic Facilities Pam Ratner.

Although the Kingdom’s decision to allow the three categories of students to remain, not all Saudi-sponsored students remained in Canada following the announcement to cancel the scholarships this past summer.

“Students allowed to stay may have already left and not returned, some may have left planning to return to in January, some may have left with no plans to return at all having enrolled somewhere else,” wrote Matt Ramsey, UBC’s strategic communications director, in an emailed statement to The Ubyssey.

“The Government of Canada continues to welcome Saudi citizens, whether they wish to come temporarily to visit, work or study, or to live permanently in the country,” wrote Peter Liang, a communications advisor from Immigrants, Refugees, and Citizenship Canada, in an emailed statement to The Ubyssey. “Our rules and processes have not changed.”