Students from Saudi Arabia

The proportion of international students who come from Saudi Arabia, by province. (Data from IRCC: 2018 study permits)

Nova Scotia and Saskatchewan colleges and universities will be hardest hit by the withdrawal of Saudi students from Canada.

The Islamic Kingdom announced Monday, August 6 that it will remove all Saudi students from Canada in retaliation for Canada‚Äôs criticism of its human rights record, specifically its arrest of a woman’s rights activist and the long detention of a blogger.

Federal statistics show that 5.7 per cent of all international students in Nova Scotia, and 4.5 per cent of all international students in Saskatchewan are citizens of Saudi Arabia. That compares to less than one per cent of all international students in Quebec, Alberta and Manitoba.

The influence of Saudi Arabia on international education in Canada has been declining for years, with the number of Saudi students falling as the number of students from other countries boomed.

Three years ago, the number of students from Saudi Arabia in Canada was surpassed only by the number of students from China, India, Korea and France. By 2018, Saudi Arabia had slipped to 10th place in the ranking of countries sending students to Canada. In 2015, 16,410 Saudi citizens were studying in Canada. That number dropped in half when the Saudi government cut back its generous system of scholarships. In the entire year of 2018, there were only 8,280 Saudi citizens with permits to study in Canada, representing just 1.5 per cent of all the international students in Canada.

Saudi officials told the Globe and Mail that there are 15,000 Saudi students currently in Canada, accompanied by another 5,000 family members. However, Canadian statistics show a much smaller number. According to the federal government Open Data Portal, Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship reported there were only 7,505 students from Saudi Arabia with Canadian study permit in the month of May (the most recent data). The figure does not include students who do not need a study permit because they plan to be in Canada less than six months.

A report commissioned by Global Affairs Canada estimates that international students contributed more than $12.8 billion to Canada’s GDP in 2016, and generated more than 140,000 full-time jobs.


chart showing Saudi Arabia is 10th

Saudi Arabia has slipped to 10th place in the list of countries exporting students to Canada. (Data: Government of Canada Open Data Portal; Immigration Refugees and Citizenship Canada


Province Number of Students from Saudi Arabia Percentage of International Students from Saudi Arabia Total Number of International Students
Newfoundland and Labrador 35 0.9% 3,950
Prince Edward Island 60 2.2% 2,780
Nova Scotia 835 5.7% 14,720
New Brunswick 90 1.7% 5,265
Quebec 435 0.6% 67,210
Ontario 4,500 1.7% 268,710
Manitoba 70 0.4% 18,245
Saskatchewan 395 4.5% 8,830
Alberta 230 0.9% 28,745
British Columbia 1,645 1.2% 133,680
Northwest Territories 0 0.0% 35
Nunavut 0 0.0% 5
Yukon 0 0.0% 240
Location Not Stated 4 0.1% 4,085
Total 8280 1.5% 551,490
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