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Flights offer for crisis-hit Nigerian students - BBC

JUNE 11, 2024

BY Joanna Morris

BBC News

A university says it will help to fund flights home to Nigeria for crisis-hit students who it reported to the Home Office.

Students at Teesside University were thrown off courses and ordered to leave the UK after a currency crisis left them struggling to pay tuition fees.

Following protests and the intervention of the Nigerian government, the university told the BBC it has now re-enrolled some affected students and opened a travel fund.

One student said the offer did not go far enough, adding: "The wide-rippling effects of this are unmanageable and piling up."

As reported by the BBC, the Middlesbrough-based university recently withdrew sponsorship for a number of students and reported them to the Home Office after they fell into tuition fee arrears.

The students had seen their savings depleted as a consequence of Nigeria's worst economic crash in generations.

Their financial struggles were exacerbated when the university changed payment plans from seven instalments to three.

The impact was so significant that a nearby food charity said 75% of its clients are now Nigerian students struggling to cope with the cost of living.

As a consequence, some missed tuition fee payments and were subsequently frozen out of their studies.

Soon after, they received Home Office letters ordering them to leave the UK.

In May, a university spokesman said failure to pay was a breach of visa sponsorship requirements, and claimed it had "no choice" but to alert the Home Office.

International relief fund

A Teesside University spokesman has now confirmed some affected students have been told they can resume their studies.

"We are working with a small group who do need to return to their home country and are opening an international relief fund for this group only to offer additional financial support for these unexpected travel costs," he added.

The university has told some students they can complete their studies from Nigeria or return to the UK to resume them at a later date.

The BBC understands some of those affected are now lodging legal appeals after being told to return to Nigeria.

One, who did not want to be named, said the university's offer failed to consider the significant impact their actions had on those affected.

He said: "I was asked to return home, pay the balance remaining and apply to return at a later date, but I don't trust them now.

"I feel this is a way to escape responsibility and they may not let me come back.

"If they did, it would cost me thousands to pay flights, visa fees and NHS fees again.

"I've already spent so much coming here and now they want me to go back without any kind of certification to reflect my achievements.

"The whole aim of coming here was to study, we haven't committed any kind of crime.

"There's been no apology for the stress and trauma the university has put me through."


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