Nigerian students at Teesside University ordered to leave UK after currency crash

<span> Teesside University said it had ‘no choice’ as failure to pay was a breach of visa sponsorship rules.</span><span>Photograph: Teeside University</span>
Teesside University said it had ‘no choice’ as failure to pay was a breach of visa sponsorship rules.Photograph: Teeside University

Nigerian students at a UK university say they are devastated after some were thrown off their course and ordered to leave the UK when they got behind on their fees because of a currency crash.

Teesside University withdrew students who were struggling with their fees and informed the Home Office, after some students’ savings were wiped out when the value of Nigeria’s naira crashed.

The students, some who say they have been contacted by debt collection agencies, protested outside the campus on Tuesday, accusing the university of being “heartless”.

The university said it had “no choice” as failure to pay was a breach of visa sponsorship rules. It said it had made every effort to help the affected students, including with bespoke payment plans.

The BBC said a group of 60 students asked the university for help after they defaulted on their fees when their savings were wiped out.

Adenike Ibrahim told the BBC she was close to handing in her dissertation when she was kicked off her course because she was unable to make a payment.

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Despite having now paid her fees in full, she will have to leave the UK with her young son and cannot re-enrol.

“I did default [on payments], but I’d already paid 90% of my tuition fees and I went to all of my classes,” she told the broadcaster. “I called them and asked to reach an agreement, but they do not care what happens to their students.”

Nigeria is facing a severe economic crisis after the value of its currency dropped sharply amid reforms introduced by the president, Bola Tinubu, who came into office a year ago, aimed at balancing its economy. It is experiencing nearly 30% inflation, with the price of some key goods, such as rice, more than doubling in less than a year.

Many Nigerians are sharing pictures and videos online showing them reducing portion sizes and eating food that would normally be fed to livestock, in order to get by.

Teesside, unlike most UK universities, which require foreign students to pay their full fees upfront, allows students to pay in instalments as long as they can show they have enough funds for fees and living expenses.

A university spokesperson said: “Teesside University is proud to be a global institution with a diverse student population but is also very aware of its obligations regarding visa issuance and compliance. These strict external regulations ensure that the university fully supports a robust immigration system and is outside of the university’s control.”

The Home Office said a decision to offer or withdraw visa sponsorship rested with the sponsoring institution. It said when a visa was shortened or cancelled, individuals should “take steps to regularise their stay or make arrangements to leave the UK”.

In a letter, the Home Office told the students they did not have a right to appeal.