Ontario government approved men-only Saudi Arabia campuses

TORONTO -- Ontario's colleges and universities minister says the Ontario government approved the establishment of two male-only campuses in Saudi Arabia.

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Premier Kathleen Wynne said Friday she'd just learned that the Saudi campuses set up by Algonquin and Niagara Colleges did not admit women, a situation she called unacceptable as she asked Reza Moridi to investigate.

Moridi confirms the colleges applied to his ministry to establish the Saudi campuses, and were given the green light by previous ministers in 2008 and 2012.

However, Moridi says the province's responsibility is to approve financial plans for the Saudi expansions and that it's up to the colleges to determine who is admitted.

He says media stories about the male-only Saudi campuses identified a "gap" in the approvals process between the responsibilities of the government and the colleges' boards of directors, and he wants that gap closed.

Algonquin College says it lost a bid to establish a women's college in Saudi Arabia -- where Shariah law forbids educating men and women in the same class -- and questions Wynne's criticism of its male-only campus.

"We are seeking clarification around the premier's comments and will have more to say on this topic when we have that clarification," Algonquin's spokesman Scott Anderson said in an email.

"Since the beginning Algonquin has been open and transparent about the college's work in Saudi Arabia...providing regular updates to our board and to the Ontario government."

Moridi wouldn't say if Algonquin and Niagara would have to shut their male-only Saudi operations if they can't also open women's colleges in the kingdom.

"We are in the process of talking to the sector and then we will get to that," he said.

"We are going to have a conversation with the college and university sector to make sure that our internationalization policy will be based on the norms and the culture which we follow."



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