Sent on behalf of Dr. Graham Pike, Dean of International Education
As many of you are aware the diplomatic situation between Canada and Saudi Arabia is directly impacting thousands of students across Canada. This includes the 93 Saudi students who are enrolled at VIU for the fall semester.
We have been monitoring the situation closely since it began and working with our partners at Universities Canada, Colleges and Institutes Canada and the Canadian Bureau for International Education to better understand the impacts. Our main focus is to support our students during this very difficult and stressful time.
The situation continues to change. What we know at the moment is the Saudi government directive requires all government-sponsored Saudi students studying in Canada to return home by the end of August 2018. A recent communication has stated that the directive does not apply to self-funded Saudi students. A student’s enrolment status at VIU will not be changed by the University – we will be taking the lead from our Saudi students and supporting them in whatever decision they decide to make. Again, our main focus is in listening to and helping our students navigate this difficult situation.
We have also had some questions about their immigration status in Canada. Our understanding is that this situation has not impacted their status. If you have students asking about this please refer them to Mohammed Hawamdeh: email@example.com; 250-740-6183; Bldg 255.
The majority of our Saudi students are studying in the Faculty of Management undergraduate programs; others are in BA and BSc programs, or in ESL programs.
International Education is providing as much support as possible to the students who have been affected. They are also being supported by staff in the Faculty of Management and other faculties where they are registered for courses, as well as by the Registrar’s Office. The VIU Faculty Association has also reached out to indicate their concern about what is happening and offer their support.
A meeting for our Saudi students was held on Wednesday, Aug 8, 2018 and attended by more than 30 students as well as VIU employees from various areas. At that meeting we listened to our students’ concerns and are now working to support them as best as possible. For example, one of their main concerns was how they were going to complete their program and transfer their credits if they had to move elsewhere. We are working with faculty to get their assessments and final grades completed as soon as possible so they have this important information.
A follow-up meeting has been scheduled, and employees are also working hard to ensure students are connected to advisors and counsellors as well as admissions and registration staff for individual support and advice.
We would appreciate the assistance of the community in ensuring all of our students are supported. If you are getting questions or hearing concerns from Saudi students about their programs or courses please direct them to contact their program advisor or program chair. If they have personal or more general questions please direct them to the reception desk in the International faculty (Bldg 255) and staff will connect them to the right person. Alternatively they can call 250-740-6527 between 8 am and 4 pm.
We will continue to monitor the situation closely and respond as needed, again, supporting our Saudi students as best we can.
We also recognize that this could have an impact on the broader community. Our international student body plays such an important role at VIU and in our region, creating a diverse environment that allows all of us to broaden our perspectives as we learn about other cultures and, in many cases, make lifelong friendships and connections with people from other countries.
We would like to ask everyone to be sensitive to the stresses placed on our Saudi students and their families and friends during this time and to respect their privacy. Privacy is a concern for Saudi students and many will not want to discuss the political situation and the impact on their personal lives.
Employees who have general questions about the situation and VIU’s actions can connect with the Dean of International Education at 250-740-6310/6311 or by email: firstname.lastname@example.org. If employees are needing support we encourage them to connect with Homewood Health which can be accessed by calling 1-800-663-1142.
As noted above the situation continues to evolve. If anything changes we will send more information via email. These messages will also be posted to international.viu.ca (this will be updated the week of August 13).