Saudi Arabia suspends government scholarship for students studying in Canada
Diplomatic tension between the governments of Saudi Arabia and Canada is proving to have a detrimental impact on students of the Middle Eastern nation who are studying in Canada.
On Aug. 5 Saudi Arabia moved to suspend government-sponsored scholarships which allowed about 16,000 students to pursue post-secondary education in Canada.
The dispute started when Canadian Foreign Affairs Minister Chrystia Freeland took to Twitter to call for the release of women’s rights activists who were arrested for expressing their views regarding human rights in Saudi Arabia.
In response, Saudi Arabia swiftly cut new trade with Canada and pulled its ambassador out of the country.
A statement from Saudi Arabia’s Foreign Ministry said that they “will not accept any form of interference in the internal affairs of the Kingdom.”
The scholarship, called the King Abdullah scholarship program, covers a wide variety of expenses for students, including tuition as well as language training, a monthly stipend, travel expenses and health insurance.
Without this, students are left scrambling to figure out their next steps as they may be forced to return home.
This diplomatic spat impacts around 15 to 20 Saudi Arabian students currently enrolled at George Brown College (GBC), according to John Porter, director of international admissions and student services.
Porter indicated that students who are currently in summer programs will be able to complete the semester. However, Saudi Arabian students who were set to continue their studies in the fall will be withdrawn from their programs.
Porter says the majority of these students were in degree programs, which are usually four years long.
Students with questions or concerns can contact the international centre or an international student advisor at GBC. There are also counselling services available for those affected by the recent decision.
While there are a number of Saudi students at GBC, this move is an even bigger concern for medical schools and universities across Canada, which have a greater number of Saudi Arabian scholarship students.