By Cameron McIntosh
An International student at Durham University faces deportation after losing his scholarship and being withdrawn from his academic studies.
Raphael Chinwuko, a former second-year law student, will have his visa revoked on the 21st July if he is unable to pay the fees owed to the University totalling £27,000.
He has since set up a crowdfunding campaign to pay off the debt which has raised over £1,500 in the past 48 hours.
Raphael is originally from Nigeria and was granted a full academic scholarship by a private organisation to cover the £14,000 annual costs of his study in the UK.
However, upon completion of his first year, Raphael was informed by the University that his fees had not been paid, which he later discovered was due to his scholarship falling through. Raphael told Palatinate his sponsors ran into financial difficulty and were unable to offer continued support for his studies.
Raphael said: “If I cannot complete this course, it would actually be a cruel twist of fate because I chose to study law to defend the rights of the underserved, of which I am one.
“The mere thought that I might not be able to realise my dream because of my financial setbacks is simply devastating.”
In an effort to cover the costs of his study, Raphael worked in a pub, which he combined with volunteering at the Citizens Advice Bureau, involvement in extracurriculars and maintaining a strong academic performance. He achieved upper second-class honours for his first year of study.
Jai Khajuria, a fellow Durham University law student told Palatinate: “He is well known as one of the nicest people in the law school, and consistently achieved top marks.
“His first year grades were easily in the top 20% of the law school and he’s worked hard to show that he deserves to be here and it’s sad to see that the university has failed to find him an alternative.”
Since being forced to withdraw from his studies on the 14th February 2018, Raphael has sought other sources of income to cover the financial costs of his remaining period of study in the UK. These included applications to college grants and the University’s Student Hardship Fund. However, since Raphael is a withdrawn student, he was ineligible to apply for both.
In his capacity as a student fundraiser for the student opportunities fund, Jai said: “When fundraising we’re told that this money is for the people who most need it in times of financial crisis.
“Raphael is stuck in exactly such a situation and it’s disappointing to see that the university did not make a greater effort to discuss his options and find an alternative.”
President-elect of Durham Students’ Union, George Walker said: “I would urge the University to allow Raphael more time to find an alternative source of income to cover the fees and to provide him with full support and guidance in his attempts to do so.
“In the meantime, I would encourage all Durham students to give generously to Raphael’s funding campaign and to write to the Vice-Chancellor expressing their concern about this case.”
Sally McGill, Chief Financial Officer at Durham University, told Palatinate: “Whilst we are unable to comment on the specifics of Raphael’s case, we hope he can find the funding to continue his studies at Durham.
“On occasion, factors beyond a student’s control can significantly change their financial circumstances – even if they had a sound financial plan in place when embarking on their studies. On the rare occasion where a sponsor fails to pay on a student’s behalf, a student can find themselves liable for a debt.
“If a student is unable to pay, it is not in their best interests to struggle to continue with their studies with mounting debt.
“We consider each student’s circumstances and look to set up a manageable payment plan, whilst always trying to ensure fairness and consistency in how we support students in such difficulty.”
Raphael’s crowdfunding campaign can be found here.