A diplomatic dispute sparked on Twitter has forced 36 Saudi Arabian citizens studying at the University of New Brunswick to leave Canada.
Foreign affairs minister Chrystia Freeland posted a tweet on Aug. 2 condemning the imprisonment of two human rights activists by Saudi Arabian officials and urging for their imminent release.
The Saudi Arabian government disapproved of Freeland’s view and responded with the removal of the Canadian ambassador and the cancellation of all financial support for Saudi Arabian students pursuing their education in Canadian universities. Students had until Aug. 31 to leave the country.
The director of the International Student Advisor’s Office at UNB Fredericton, Nancy O’Shea, referred all questions related to the state of Saudi Arabian students to the UNB Communications Office.
“UNB was officially advised that all the financial guarantees for all Saudi students sponsored by the Saudi Cultural Bureau for the fall 2018 semester have been cancelled,” spokesperson Heather Campbell wrote to The Brunswickan in an email.
Statistics show that this dispute has affected 14 students from UNB Fredericton and 22 students from UNB Saint John.
The international differential fee per term at UNB for 2018-2019 is $4,596.50. With students returning to Saudi Arabia, excluding the tuition fees, university officials say UNB is facing a minimum loss of $165,474.
Campbell said the students were enrolled across all years and various faculties. The total financial impact on UNB’s budget is yet to be determined.
There is no certainty in whether the students were able to resume their studies smoothly by transferring the credits from UNB.
“The timing was not advantageous to our students as many competitive entry programs likely had seats filled for fall admission,” Campbell wrote. “For students close to degree completion, they may be able to work with their advisors on approved off-campus study options at other institutions to satisfy degree agreements.”
Multiple attempts to contact former UNB students from Saudi Arabia were unsuccessful.