Economic Impact of Saudi Arabian Students in Atlantic Canada (Part 2)

Editor’s note: what follows is the second in a series of posts about Saudi Arabian students in Atlantic Canada. See the first piece in the series here.

By Azad Haider, Post-Doctoral Fellow, Saint Mary’s University, and Jackson Doughart, AIMS Policy Analyst

Part I of this series looked at the growth in the population of Saudi Arabian students at Canadian universities, with a particular focus on Atlantic Canada. As we saw, the number of students from Saudi Arabia has increased across the region since the turn of the century, and is of particular note in New Brunswick and Nova Scotia.

As reported by CBC News last year, the Saudi Arabian scholarship program will soon end for those universities who are not found in the Top 200 world universities, according to the Shanghai Top 300 World Index. According the CBC piece, Saudi Arabia wants to extend scholarships to only those schools where “the quality of education is much better.” Unfortunately for the Atlantic region, none of its universities fall in the top 200.

Peter Halpin, the Executive Director of the Association of Atlantic Universities, said “the King Abdullah Scholarship is being ‘reshaped’ and will only support students at the world’s 200 best universities.” He further added that “this program has had a real, significant, positive effect on the recruitment of Saudi students to the Maritimes.”

It is important to look at the economic impact of Saudi students on the region’s economy, as the diversion of these students to other schools could have a substantial local effect.

International students contribute approximately $565-million annually to the regional economy, and Saudi Arabian students are 12.03 percent of the total international students enrolled in the Atlantic Canada. Table 1 below provides the contributions of Saudi students in particular.

Table 1: Economic Impact of Saudi Students in Atlantic Provinces

Province # of Students 2013/2014 Saudi percent of Total Students in region Economic Impact (Portion of 565 million) Economic Impact in million (Siddiq et al.)
Newfoundland and Labrador 48 0.35 2.00 2.05
Prince Edward Island 21 0.15 0.87 0.90
Nova Scotia 1167 8.60 48.61 49.89
New Brunswick 396 2.92 16.50 16.93
Total Saudi Students in Atlantic Canada (AC) 1632 12.03 67.98 69.77
Total in Atlantic Canada 13563 100.00 565
Source: Postsecondary Student Information System (PSIS) Survey 2013/2014

According to Table 1, the total economic impact of Saudi Arabian students in Atlantic Canada is $67.98 million, with the largest portion ($48.61 million) captured by Nova Scotia. Siddiq et al. (2009) estimate that international students spend on average $28,500 per year in Nova Scotia and assumed this amount for the whole Atlantic region. Spending is even higher when one accounts for economic multiplier effects.[1] We also did a pilot survey for Saudi students and calculated that average spending is approximately $30,000 per year in Halifax[2]. Furthermore, the study found that students spend $3.40 for every $1 the province spends on their healthcare and education.

We calculate the economic impact of Saudi students in Atlantic Canada in last column of above Table 1, according to the metrics of Siddiq et al. (2009). According to these estimates, Saudi Arabian students make a $69 million contribution to the Atlantic Canadian economy, especially in Nova Scotia. The Siddiq et al. estimate mirrors closely our estimates in column 3, which are simply the total figure apportioned by number of students per province. These estimated figures would be higher if we calculated recent data with inflation adjusted, as these above estimates are calculated to 2008-09.

In sum, the Saudi government’s decision to stop these scholarships for Atlantic universities poses a huge potential loss for the universities as well for the Atlantic regional economy. One can expect that this loss will be shifted to Canadian students in coming years, perhaps through such measures as higher tuition.

In the next post, we will look at Atlantic University Rankings on the Shanghai Index.


[1] Siddiq, Fazley, Brandon Holterman, Warren Nethercote, Alasdair Sinclair, and Allan White. The Economic Impact of International Students Enrolled in Nova Scotia Universities: An Expenditure Analysis. Halifax, NS: Department of Education, Province of Nova Scotia, December 2009. highereducation/documents/international_students_final_report.pdf.

[2] Internal Data collected by AIMS.


AIMS Student Blogs: CETA, Minimum Wage, Federal Stimulus


By Alex Whalen, Operations Manager

Here at AIMS, we maintain this “Straight Talk” blog on a year-round basis, with commentaries from our staff and fellows. As readers may be aware, AIMS also operates a student outreach program called AIMS on Campus, which includes a student blog.

AIMS on Campus is generously supported by the Lotte and John Hecht Foundation. The goal of the program is to promote economic education, market-based ideas, and internship opportunities among post-secondary students. Earlier this fall, AIMS on Campus hosted two events with Dr. Irvin Studin, discussing the image of a Canada with 100-million people. You can view excerpts from Dr. Studin here. The program will be hosting more events during the spring semester. Please follow for more.

One key element of the AIMS on Campus program is writing and blogging opportunities for our student fellows. I’d like to highlight here three recent student blogs that may be of interest. All were written by AIMS on Campus Student Fellows:

  1. “A flawed, demand-side response to supply-side problems”, by Justin Hatherly. This article examines the limits of fiscal stimulus, arguing that Canada’s current economic problems are supply related and based on global forces. Read it here.
  2. “Benefits of the CETA trade deal for Atlantic Canada”, by Salman Dostmohammad. In light of some recent anti-trade rhetoric, the author discusses the Comprehensive Economic Trade Agreement (CETA) between Canada and the EU. Benefits for Atlantic Canadian exports will be widespread. Read it here.
  3. “Minimum wage: a tax by another name”, by Chris Sallie. The author discusses our recent minimum wage hikes in relation to the basic personal exemption (BPE). He points out that minimum wages impact small businesses, while raising the BPE would impact government revenues. Read it here.

Stay tuned to the AIMS on Campus website for further blogs as well as event postings.


Proactive consultation leads to beneficial partnerships

altonPhoto source: CTV

By Joseph Quesnel, AIMS Fellow

Controversy has arisen over a recent Nova Scotia government legal brief that described a Mi’kmaq community as a “conquered people.” Nova Scotia Premier Stephen McNeil, who is also provincial minister of aboriginal affairs, is expected to publicly apologize today (Thursday) for the comments at a public event.

However, what is more important is the context in which the comments were said and what is says about the provincial government’s attitude towards consulting with First Nations.

The brief – which came from the provincial Department of Justice – asserted that the Crown’s obligation to consult extended only to “unconquered people,” and that the band’s submission to the Crown in 1760 negated its claim of sovereignty and negated government’s constitutional duty to consult the First Nation. Alex Cameron, counsel for the department, said Mi’kmaq treaty rights were terminated because of hostilities between the Indigenous communities and the government. This argument flies in the face of a landmark 1999 Supreme Court judgment that treaty rights were not extinguished in the Maritimes.

The context of the comments is a decision by the Sipekn’Katik Indigenous community to ask for a judicial review of a provincial permit approving the controversial Alton Gas storage project. The company involved wants to store natural gas in three underground salt caverns near the Shubenacadie River. Mi’kmaq groups are concerned about the discharge of salty water into the river.

The larger and more important point is that the Nova Scotia government is finding reasons not to consult with First Nations in the province. The province showing good will towards the bands would be a way of building long-term relationships. Simply put, if the provincial government is open to negotiations and is a good faith partner, it will likely lead to more mutually beneficial economic partnerships between resource companies and Indigenous communities. Many bands live near natural resource developments. The National Centre for First Nations Governance says that consultation signals respect for Aboriginal rights, which is of course good for relationship building. Government denial of Aboriginal rights and obstructionism creates bad blood and a future unwillingness to deal as good faith partners.

Political stability is one major factor that third-party investors look for when deciding over investment in projects. One important aspect of that is unresolved concerns by Indigenous communities. The Fraser Institute’s Global Petroleum Survey and its Survey of Mining Companies list Aboriginal consultation protocols and disputed land claims among major concerns when deciding to invest.

Atlantic provincial governments need to learn from Nova Scotia’s mistake and develop proactive consultative relationships with their Indigenous communities. The future of Atlantic resource development depends on it.