A diplomatic spat between Canada and Saudi Arabia that’s got the kingdom planning to pull its students from Canadian schools won’t have an impact on Selkirk College.
That’s because the college doesn’t currently have any students from Saudi Arabia attending any Kootenay campuses.
“We haven’t seen a Saudi student here since 2012,” says Danny Beatty, the manager of international education and development. “And even then, we peaked at about 12-14 students from Saudi Arabia attending here.”
On Monday a report indicated the Saudi government was ordering about 15,000 Saudi students going to school on scholarships in Canada to leave the country. The students will be placed in other countries offering similar programs.
The move came as part of the Saudi leadership’s angry reaction to a tweet from Global Affairs Canada on the weekend that expressed concerned about the arrests of civil society and women’s rights activists in the country. The Saudis accused Canada of interfering in their internal affairs.
But Beatty says the kingdom was never a big source of students to the college, who mostly attended to improve their English before working on a higher degree program.
“We have a great English as a Second Language program, but lots of these students wanted to study ESL at the same school where they could take a degree program afterwards,” says Beatty. “Because Selkirk College doesn’t have many bachelor degree programs, it was hard to maintain us on their list [of approved institutions].”
The college has about 500 international students attending annually, mostly from South Asia and the Pacific Rim.
The Saudis have made several moves to show their displeasure. They have frozen any new trade deals, and there’s concern it could also threaten Canada’s $15-billion arms deal to supply armoured vehicles to the country. Saudi Airlines is suspending its flights from Toronto, and Canada’s ambassador to the kingdom was ordered to leave the country.