Lancaster students left waiting five years for degrees after scholarship company collapses

‘We’d have been better off if we’d never come to Lancaster University’

Lancaster University has been withholding the degrees of two former students for over five years, as the body funding their tuition collapsed and was unable to pay for their final year of study.

Mechatronic Engineering student Ibioku Allison and Biomedicine student Taanadeebabari Menegbo should have graduated from Lancaster in 2016, but have been denied their degrees due to their scholarship foundation failing to pay their final year fees.

They are the second and third students who have found themselves in this position after The Lancaster Tab reported that Patrick Ete faced a 73-year wait to receive his degree, three months ago.

Lancaster University has written off £200k in unpaid tuition over the past two years, but hasn’t yet done the same for these three students.

An email sent to the students

Rivers State Sustainable Development Agency was a Nigerian government-affiliated scholarship foundation that aimed to help students from impoverished backgrounds, but it collapsed at the end of the students’ second year.

RSSDA wrote to Lancaster ahead of the students’ third years to assure hem that the final year’s tuition would be paid.

However, they failed to deliver on this promise, and the responsibility fell to Ibioku and Taanadeebabari.

A letter written from the Rivers State government confirming their intentions to pay the final year’s tuition

Since being loaded with the responsibility of paying their own tuition fees, both students took to contacting anyone who they believed may be able to assist them in their plea.

Ibioku told us that he personally met with Richard English, Deputy Head of the Student Registry, to try and solve the issue, but was informed that their certificates would only be issued when the payment was completed.

Taanadeebabari also had multiple communications with Jamie Vegad, the university’s Regional Manager for Africa, Middle East and Indonesia, in attempts to resolve the issue – but this came to no avail.

Both students also sent multiple appeals directly to the university, pleading their cases.

An email sent from Taanadeebabari to the university appealing for the release of his degree

Since leaving the university, the students have been unsuccessful in receiving the funds from the Nigerian government, and despite consistent communications with the university, there has still been no development.

The university is adamant about receiving the final year fees before issuing Ibioku and Taanadeebabari’s degrees and even went as far as hiring a debt collection agency to chase the students and receive their tuition.

The solution offered to them was a long term payment plan, but Ibioku and Taanadeebabari pointed out that they are unable to make any payments since they need their degree certificates to secure suitable employment and earn enough to be able to pay their debt.

An email from the debt collection agency hired by the university to Taanadeebabari and Ibioku

Both students are disheartened over the fact that the over £30,000 that the university did receive toward their degrees is being completely ignored: “They’ve received over £30,000 from our sponsors for each of us. Now, how do they expect us to pay when we don’t have the certificate to apply for opportunities that we ordinarily qualify for.”

They have also found it very difficult watching their fellow scholarship recipients whose universities issued degrees to them despite insufficient payment.

“Universities in the UK issued certificates to our colleagues without any payment because they know of their dire situation. And those colleagues have gone ahead to lead comfortable lives wherever they are,” Taanadeebabari told The Lancaster Tab.

An email sent from Taanadeebabari to the university appealing for the release of his degree

Ibioku and Taanadeebabari explained how their situation has stunted their careers and had a dire effect on their mental health.

“This situation has left us all severely depressed. As a result, I now manage a severe anxiety disorder,” Ibioku said. “Issues like this trigger me. The thought of me not living up to my expectation kills me.

“We all had and still have great plans for our lives and community, only to be treated this way as if it were any fault of ours. Imagine finishing your degree, and for five years, you are denied the benefits that come with it.”

Taanadeebabari agreed, telling The Lancaster Tab: “I now find myself deeper into some of the conditions I was hoping I would escape by attending university. The whole situation now is like psychological torture, and the university has used all its weight against us.

“Having been stuck for the past five years has taken a toll on my mental wellbeing. Depression and suicidal thoughts are now a common battle that I have to fight. It’s unfair that after receiving over £30,000, they are still withholding the entirety of our degrees. We’d have been better off if we’d never come to Lancaster University.”

An email sent from Taanadeebabari to the university’s financial team

A GoFundMe has recently been set up in their name, hoping that the public may assist them in their plea and have explained that every little helps in their current situation.

A spokesperson for Lancaster University said: “We are aware that some students face difficulties when paying fees and we try to help as much as possible. For context, last year, 2019/20, we wrote-off £132,681 of which £76,659 related to tuition fees. The year before (2018/19) £182,200 was written off, of which £132,672 was related to tuition fees. When students contact us directly, we will investigate on a case by case basis.”.

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