Kathyrn Leroux, chair of the board of governors, oversaw an international update at the Feb. 8 board meeting.
Kathyrn Leroux, chair of the board of governors, oversaw an international update at the Feb. 8 board meeting.
Kathyrn Leroux, chair of the board of governors, oversaw an international update at the Feb. 8 board meeting.

Algonquin is starting its third attempt at creating a women-only campus in Saudi Arabia, the college’s board of governors learned at a Feb. 8 meeting.

The meeting was packed with dozens of spectators, the full board of 17 with two members on call, a CBC camera crew, and an Ottawa Citizen reporter, a reflection of the level of interest in the topic.

Doug Wotherspoon, the college’s vice president of international affairs, told the meeting that the province agreed that there was good support for the work Algonquin is doing internationally.

And in spite of a media storm questioning the college’s operation in Jazan, meetings had taken place earlier this month between the college and Reza Moridi, the minister of training, colleges and universities. The province and the college exchanged information then on the campus in Jazan.

Wotherspoon said in an interview with the Times after the BOG meeting the province and the college also agreed on equal opportunity of education for both genders.

“We brought them up to date on the fact that we had previously submitted two bids to operate a female campus and that we continue to want to operate a female campus which would give us that equality,” said Wotherspoon, when asked about Kathleen Wynne’s comments that had been critical of the all-male campus.

“We also let them know that there is in fact already (gender) equality in the country, even though we are not providing it. Of the 37 colleges that they introduced, 19 were male and 18 were female.”

The college has now started its third attempt for establishing a female campus, and officials believe the market is there to support it. Two previous attempts to do so had failed because Algonquin’s bids were rejected.

“The number of spots for females is in fact higher than males,” said Wotherspoon in regards to the 18 female campuses in Saudi Arabia.

Algonquin has promised to keep the province updated on its plans for the female campus, and through international updates at meetings of the board of governors, school representatives and staff have been well informed as well.

Wotherspoon presented a brief to board chair Kathyrn Leroux at the BOG meeting, stating a change in management was underway at the Colleges of Excellence in Saudi Arabia. That government organization oversees all international agreements between the country and foreign campuses.

Both the CEO and COO of the Colleges of Excellence were moved to different positions within the Saudi government, and new representatives have filled the positions.

Wotherspoon said later in an interview that this will not change the student experience at the Jazan campus.

In the meantime, despite negative publicity surrounding the Jazan campus, others have defended Algonquin.

Ottawa councilor Rick Chiarelli said of the Jazan campus, “Its purpose is misunderstood and it’s accomplishing its major goals.”

He stressed the importance of campuses like the one in Jazan opening Ottawa to the world, and bringing change to the countries in which they operate.

“The college has far more prestige than it ever has,” said Chiarelli, “and it has earned every bit of it.”

The college, along with Niagara, has attracted national attention for its lack of gender diversity at its Jazan operations, which lost the Algonquin $1.4 million in its second year of operations.

It anticipates returning to profitability with the coming school year in September.