Crisis-hit students in plea over fees

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Crisis-hit students in plea over fees

Tanya Gupta,BBC News, South East

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The Students’ Union said scores of distressed students had sought help

Overseas students struggling with tuition fees amid a currency crisis in Nigeria have pleaded for more time after the University of Sussex told them debts must be cleared by Friday.

The Students’ Union accused the university of taking a “hostile approach” by threatening people from Nigeria, and other countries in the Global South experiencing record inflation and currency devaluation, with expulsion.

An unnamed Nigerian student said the exchange rate had tripled, but they had “no intention of not paying”.

A university spokeswoman said: “No students have been or will be removed from their courses, or from university accommodation this academic year due to their debt.”

The Nigerian student said: “We’re willing to meet our obligations, but we’re pleading for the university to grant us some time.

“Since the exchange rate tripled, my monthly income of £800 is barely enough to cover the £182 weekly accommodation, leaving me struggling to survive.”

The Students’ Union said 1,009 students with outstanding tuition fee debt were emailed a letter on 15 April telling them debt must be cleared by 31 May.

It comes days after Nigerian students were thrown off courses at Teesside University after they struggled with tuition fee payments.

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The university said it took students’ wellbeing extremely seriously

The letter from the university’s chief financial officer, shown to the BBC, listed sources of support including a university hardship fund and welfare loans.

But it said if debt was not settled by 31 May, the university may remove IT and library services, withhold awards of qualifications and may refer cases to commercial debt recovery.

It added: “If payment of your fees remains outstanding after May 31 2024, the university may take action to permanently withdraw you from the university.”

It said the university would then be required to report withdrawal of international students to UK Visas and Immigration (UKVI), adding: “UKVI will then consider cancelling your student route visa.”

Riko Kunisue, the union’s international students’ officer, said students were under a “tremendous amount of fear and stress” and the university must extend the deadline.

A university spokeswoman said: “We take the wellbeing of our students extremely seriously and understand that some of our students are currently facing challenging circumstances.”

She added: “The university is being as flexible as possible and has proactively engaged with those student groups affected. We have also been offering wellbeing and other support, and signposting available financial support in our communications.”

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