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Nigerian students unable to pay fees are told to leave UK

UNITED KINGDOM-NIGERIA

Some Nigerian students at Teesside University have been ordered to leave the United Kingdom, after falling behind with their tuition fees because of the currency crisis and devaluation of the Nigerian naira. They have been told they have no right to appeal, according to documents obtained by the BBC.

The Middlesbrough-based university in north-east England said it had to inform the British Home Office after a group of students from Nigeria failed to pay the final instalment of their international student fees, advertised on the institution’s website as being £15,000 (US$19,000) a year.

International students must pay £8,000 in advance tuition fees on top of the Confirmation of Acceptance of Studies (CAS) charge, bringing the total initial payment to £9,260.

They also have to show proof of having sufficient funds to cover tuition and living costs while studying in the UK in accordance with Home Office visa requirements and are then expected to pay the outstanding balance 28 days prior to the programme starting, according to the website.

However, the value of the Nigerian currency has plummeted in what is being seen as the worst economic crisis in a generation for the West African nation and this has left students struggling to pay tuition fees on time.

A spokesperson for Teesside University told University World News they are aware of the ongoing economic situation in Nigeria and had “made every effort to support affected students to mitigate the impact of the crisis on their learning experience”.

This included offering “bespoke payment plans” which had helped over 2,000 international students, but “unfortunately, we do have a small number of students who remain withdrawn on financial grounds,” said the spokesperson.

Meanwhile, the BBC reported on 22 May 2024, in a story widely circulated in Nigerian news outlets, that a group of students, 60 of whom shared their names with the BBC, staged a protest this week outside the building housing the vice-chancellor’s office calling on the university to support a number of Nigerian students who defaulted on payments.

Some of the protesters told the BBC they had been “frozen out of university accounts and involuntarily withdrawn from their courses”, including some who were just weeks away from graduating.

“Adenike Ibrahim was close to handing in her dissertation at the end of two years of study when she missed one payment and was then kicked off her course and reported to the Home Office”, stated the BBC.

She told the BBC: “I did default [on payments], but I’d already paid 90% of my tuition fees and I went to all of my classes.

“I called them and asked to reach an agreement, but they do not care what happens to their students.”

She said the experience was “horrendous” and she did not know what was happening with her qualification.

Permission to stay cancelled

The Home Office told students, including Ibrahim, that their permission to enter the UK had been cancelled because they stopped studying at the university.

The letters, seen by the BBC, offer a date by which the student must leave the country and say they do not have a “right of appeal or administrative review against the decision”.

Some affected students have managed to pay off outstanding fees, but the university is now unable to intervene in the Home Office process, the BBC understands.

A university spokesman told University World News: “Since being made aware of the ongoing economic situation in Nigeria, Teesside University has made every effort to support affected students to mitigate the impact of the crisis on their learning experience.

“We have offered bespoke payment plans to take into account individual circumstances. To date, more than 2,000 students have taken up this support.

“We have offered students an individual meeting with specialist staff; around 160 students have now met personally with staff and solutions have been found to support them to continue or complete their studies.

“We have also worked closely with community organisations to ensure there is a wide network of support available for those students who find themselves in financial hardship.

“Most students have taken up the support and flexible payment options offered, but unfortunately, we do have a small number of students who remain withdrawn on financial grounds and as a consequence are no longer eligible for visa sponsorship.”

In the University’s response to the BBC, a spokesperson explained that while Teesside is proud to be a global institution with a diverse student population, it is also very aware of its obligations regarding visa issuance and compliance.

In the past three academic years, Teesside University has recruited more than 800 students from the Sub-Saharan Africa region, with a strong proportion coming from Nigeria.

Concerns over the mounting debt from Nigerian students at British universities are growing after a year of continual devaluation of the naira, as reported in April by The PIE News, which said: “While Nigerians have become accustomed to fluctuating rates and shortages of foreign exchange, many students have seen costs rise by 300% in the same academic year.”