Sudbury·Audio

Laurentian University 'disappointed' in Saudia Arabia's decision to recall students

Laurentian University isn’t in a state of panic about Saudi Arabia's announcement it would be ordering Saudi students back to the country.

Questions still to be answered after Saudi prince's recall of all students from Canada

Laurentian University isn't in a state of panic yet about Saudi Arabia's announcement it would be ordering international students back to the country.

The Sudbury post-secondary institute was expecting around 130 students from the Middle East nation, according to Chris Mercer, Laurentian's Associate Vice President of Student Life. But which students are being told to return isn't clear yet.

About 16,000 students enrolled in programs across the country recently had their scholarships suspended and were told by the Saudi government to study elsewhere, as part of series of retaliatory moves after Canada's foreign affairs minister criticized the country over human rights.

Mercer said roughly half of Saudi students receive funding through the King Abdullah Scholarship Program, a program that has been gutted since a government change two years ago.

Laurentian saw a significant drop in the amount of Saudi students, approximately half, since the cuts.

"Historically, about half [of Laurentian's Saudi students] have been financed through the [program,]" Mercer said. "If that group will no longer have financing, it's that group of 65 we're talking about."

The other students have arranged financing through other means, but the Saudi government has not been clear if those students will be affected by the orders.

The Canadian government has not issued any information on whether those student visas, which are contingent on funding, will be honoured.

Mercer said his office has already been fielding calls from Saudi students.

"We heard from the students on campus, certainly we heard from some in Saudi Arabia, looking to understand what their options are," Mercer said. "That's part of the difficulty right now. We don't know all of the answers to all of the questions."

Even the smaller amount of students will be a blow for the student body, Mercer said, adding that the students bring an intellectual and cultural vibrancy to campus classrooms. 

"You just can't replace that overnight."

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