Newspaper article The Canadian Press

Ontario Colleges Operate Campuses in Saudi Arabia for Male Students Only

Newspaper article The Canadian Press

Ontario Colleges Operate Campuses in Saudi Arabia for Male Students Only

Article excerpt

Ontario colleges in Saudi Arabia for men only

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TORONTO - Ontario's minister of post-secondary education says he's concerned that two publicly-funded Ontario colleges have opened campuses in Saudi Arabia that don't allow women.

On Wednesday, Colleges and Universities Minister Reza Moridi said decisions on the operation of a campus, including student composition, are up to each college's board of governors.

But late Thursday, after a lot of criticism on social media about the male-only campuses, the minister had a change of heart about Ontario colleges teaching courses that deliberately exclude women.

"I understand and appreciate the concern that has been raised in recent weeks around some of these international activities, particularly around two Ontario colleges running male-only campuses in Saudi Arabia," Moridi said in a statement to The Canadian Press. "I share those concerns."

Niagara College offers tourism, hospitality and business courses at its campus in Taif, and Algonquin College offers 10 programs, including business, accounting and electrical engineering technology, at a campus in the city of Jazan.

In addition, Toronto-based Centennial College offers a corporate training program for men only in Saudi Arabia.

The Ontario campuses in Saudi Arabia, and all education in the kingdom, operate under Sharia law and prohibit the teaching of men and women in the same classes.

Moridi said he wanted to meet with both colleges and also plans a conversation with all community colleges about the programs they deliver outside of Ontario.

"What has become clear is that further engagement needs to take place between the government and Ontario's college sector on this important issue," he said.

"I will be reaching out to Algonquin College and Niagara College immediately to receive a full update on their international activities."

Ontario provides $1.44 billion in funding to its 24 community colleges, which accounts for only about 40 per cent of their budgets. Algonquin got $103 million in provincial funding in 2014-15, while Niagara College received $45 million. The colleges have to get the rest of their funding from tuition fees and other sources.

"They're desperate for ways to generate some dollars," said NDP post-secondary critic Peggy Sattler. …

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