More than 100 international students will not be returning to the University of Regina after being caught in the middle of a spat between Canada and their country of Saudi Arabia.
The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia said it was withdrawing all students it had sponsored from the country after Canadian officials criticized the arrest of several social activists.
Livia Castellanos, associate vice-president of the University of Regina International, said they previously had over 150 Saudi students registered at the school. They now have 45 students registered but that could decrease.
Castellanos said the deadline for Saudi students to withdraw from Canadian universities was extended until Sept. 22 by the Saudi Arabian government.
“The students that we have here still have time to de-register … De-registration means dropping the classes and just leaving,” Castellanos said, noting students are able to do that for the first two weeks of the semester.
“The vast majority of the students want to stay but unfortunately we cannot do much about the students staying because it would be against their scholarship.”
Castellanos said the U of R has been working with schools in the United States to find places for the students to transfer to which will accept the credits they earned in Regina.
She said it was the first time in her 20-year career that a situation like this has occurred.
“I think it has been very difficult for the students, their academic life is just part of their life but a lot of the students had to leave their homes, rent their homes, sell their homes, sell their cars, leave relationships behind, friends, neighbours so it has been a very traumatic situation for the students and their community and their families,” Castellanos commented.
For Saudi students that are still registered, the school will be placing calls to ensure the students are still in Canada.
“If they remain in Canada we will continue to support them as much as we have been doing and we always do to all international students,” Castellanos said.
If a student is no longer in Canada but is still registered, the school will drop their courses so they do not incur any kind of debt with the university.