Economic Impact of Saudi Arabian Students in Atlantic Canada


Editor’s note: what follows is the first in a series of posts about Saudi Arabian students in Atlantic Canada. The series will quantify their impact and examine policy implications in Canada and in Saudi Arabia. It is co-authored by Dr. Azad Haider and Jackson Doughart. More about the authors can be found below.

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

Universities are significant contributors to the economy of Atlantic Canada. The Association of Atlantic Universities (AAU) documented that universities constitute approximately $2.6-billion yearly in the region’s GDP. More importantly, Atlantic Universities contribute $496-million in federal and provincial taxes and $110-million in the construction of buildings and land development. They are one of the potent ingredients for economic growth in Atlantic Canada.

Over the last decade, international students have emerged as significant contributors to the Canadian economy. In light of this importance, institutions across the country set a target to double the number of international students in the coming years.

International students are a significant source of universities’ revenue, and ultimately to economic activity, due to the differential of fees. International students in Atlantic Canada generate an economic impact of 565-million per year (AAU). Similarly, international students’ economic impact in the Atlantic region is 6.1% of total student spending, with Saudi students contributing a significant amount of that figure. International students also constituted $30-million in federal and provincial tax revenue and $120-million worth of income to universities. Saudi Arabia is the major source of international students in the Atlantic Region. Above, Chart 1 presents the international students enrollment from Saudi Arabia by province from 2008-09 to 2013-14. We can see Nova Scotia’s enrollment has increased significantly, and is second-highest in the country.


The number of enrolled students here reached 1167 in the year 2013-14 as compared to 120 in the year 2008-09, registering more than a 9-times increase. In other Atlantic provinces in 2013/14, 396 Saudi students were enrolled in New Brunswick, 48 in Newfoundland and Labrador, and 21 in P.E.I.  This large increase in the enrollment is primarily due to the King Abdullah Scholarships for Saudi students to attend North American universities, under which tuition fees and living expenses are covered.

In the next post, we will look at the economic impact of Saudi students and the consequences of losing these contributors with changing policies in Saudi Arabia.

Introducing the Authors
Azad Haider is a Post-doctoral fellow in the Department of Economics at Saint Mary’s University (SMU). He holds a Ph.D in Labour Economics from Federal Urdu University Islamabad, Pakistan. He also holds a M.A. in Economics from Punjab University Lahore. He served as an Assistant professor at COMSATS Institute of Information Technology, and before joining COMSATS served as an Assistant Professor in School of Economics in Quaid-i-Azam University Islamabad. He is also affiliated with the Atlantic Research Group on the Economics of Immigration, Aging, and Diversity (ARGEIAD) at SMU. Mr. Haider has developed his interest in immigration related issues, macroeconomics, environmental and health economics and energy economics. He is currently authoring numerous papers relating to these subjects.

Jackson Doughart is a Policy Analyst for AIMS, and his profile can be found here.

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