PEI

Loss of Saudi students 'disheartening' for UPEI student

A vice-president with UPEI’s student union says the relocation of 49 Saudi students is a "disheartening" loss to the university as well as the province.

Emma Drake says international students part of what makes UPEI and province special

Emma Drake, the UPEI student union's vice-president academic and external, says Canada's dispute with Saudi Arabia shows how events that happen internationally can be felt at the community level. (Submitted by Emma Drake)

A vice-president with UPEI's student union says the relocation of 49 Saudi students is "disheartening" loss to the university as well as the province.

Emma Drake, a second-year political science student, said she was "saddened and frustrated" when Saudi Arabia pulled its students from Canada amid a diplomatic dispute.

"I was saddened because at UPEI our international students is what makes us a great school. They're the unique aspect to UPEI and we wouldn't be the school we are today without them. So to see some of them be forced to not  be able to continue their studies here is really disheartening."

Earlier this month, Canada's foreign ministry sent a tweet expressing concern about the arrests of women's rights activists in Saudi Arabia, and called for their release.

The Saudis responded by expelling the Canadian ambassador, putting a stop to new trade and investment, barring their citizens from receiving medical treatment in Canada, instructing their overseas asset managers to dump their Canadian assets and recalling 8,300 students from Canadian universities.

Relocated to other universities

That left the Saudi students at UPEI wondering what's next. Drake has heard they are being relocated to universities in the United Kingdom, the U.S., Australia and New Zealand.

We wouldn't be the province we are without these international immigrants coming to live here and diversifying the community. - Emma Drake

She said it goes to show how something that happens on an international level can have an impact on a community level.

"They just had to start moving, start packing stuff, start selling their car, start selling their TV, find a new school to go to," Drake said.

Drake said though the Saudi students were only 49 among among 1,100 international students at UPEI, she said their loss will be felt.

Financial loss for UPEI

Since international students pay about $15,000 a year in tuition, it means a loss of about $735,000 to the university, she said. It's also 49 fewer residents paying for rent, food and others items that contribute to the P.E.I. economy.

But Drake said the biggest loss will simply be their presence on P.E.I.

"We wouldn't be the province we are without these international immigrants coming to live here and diversifying the community. It's a huge positive impact to the society and to see 50 of them have to leave, it's really disappointing and it's nothing but a loss for P.E.I. and UPEI."

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With files from Laura Chapin