Economic Impact of Saudi Arabian Students in Atlantic Canada (Part 3)

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

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

As the following two graphics show, enrollment of Saudi Arabian students in Atlantic Canadian universities has been substantial over a short period.


Table 2: Saudi Students as percent of International and Total Students in Canada

Region Saudi Students as % of Int. Students Saudi Students as % of total Students
2008/2009 2013/2014 2008/2009 2013/2014
Atlantic 2.40 12.03 0.18 1.36
Que. 1.29 1.64 0.07 0.11
Ont. 1.08 2.79 0.09 0.27
Prairies 1.48 1.89 0.08 0.16
BC 1.43 2.77 0.14 0.40
Canada 1.31 3.10 0.10 0.30

It would be consequential – both for universities themselves and the local economy to which they contribute – if this source of international student enrollment were to end. Saudi Arabia will phase out scholarships to universities that do not find themselves in the Top 200 world university rankings. In the table below, we see that no Atlantic Canadian schools finds itself in the top 200. (We note that two Saudi Arabian universities – “King Abdul Aziz University” and “King Saud University” – lie in top 200.)

University National Rank


National Rank


World Rank


World Rank


University of Toronto 1 1 25 27
University of British Columbia 2 2 40 34
McGill University 3 3 64 69
McMaster University 4 4 96 83
University of Alberta 5 5 101-150 101-150
University of Montreal 6 6 101-150 151-200
Laval University 7-14 7-13 201-300 201-300
Dalhousie University 7-14 14-16 201-300 301-400
Source: The Academic Ranking of World Universities (ARWU)

Dalhousie University is the only Atlantic school in the 200-300 range, meaning that it has the best opportunity to recover the loss of Saudi students by improving its ranking. The following table notes Dalhousie’s ranking among several publications.

World Ranking Dalhousie University
201-250 The Times Higher Education World University Ranking 2015-16
201-300 The Academic Ranking of World Universities
370 Best Global Universities
286 Center for World University ranking
277 QS World University Rankings® 2015/16.

We suggest that Dalhousie University must focus on increasing its quality of education to continue attracting students from Saudi Arabia. At the same time, universities must also communicate to Saudi Arabian authorities that they provide quality education, regardless of ranking.

Departments of the university that individually fall in the top 200 must also be conveyed to the Saudi government. These steps may increase the possibility of departments having a continued enrollment of Saudi students on government scholarship. As we have explained in other posts, the economic impact of losing these students would be very detrimental to the region.

In sum, a better coordination mechanism needs to be installed to attract foreign students from Saudi Arabia.


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