Leeds University waives fees for struggling student after initially refusing to help

Liam Knights had to raise money online so he could pay off his tuition fees after Leeds University refused to help

Leeds University’s School of Law has decided to waive the tuition fee debt of a student who had to crowdfund £2,500 in order to graduate.

On Tuesday this week, 28-year-old Liam Knights found out that he had just one day to pay off the remaining £2,500 in tuition fees he owed, or else he would be unable to graduate.

The formerly homeless student, who is studying for a Master’s in security, conflict and justice, has previously featured as a poster boy for social mobility in Leeds University’s promotional materials.

In April this year, Liam lost his job to the coronavirus pandemic. Fearful of being made homeless again, Liam used the remainder of his student loan to cover the rent and bills he owed on his Hyde Park shared house.

Despite explaining to Leeds University that he, therefore, could not afford to pay £2,500 so quickly, Liam was offered no help.

With no family support network or savings in place, Liam turned to Go Fund Me, an online crowdfunding website, to raise the money. In less than a day Liam received £2,870 in donations, with one person even chipping in £1,000.

Now, after having raised the money to cover his fees and following strong public backlash, Leeds University’s School of Law School has decided to waive them.

Liam said: “The head of the School of Law spoke with me today and told me she was unaware of what was going on.

“In fairness to her she’s acted really quickly and now told me the School of Law will waive the fees and I will graduate on time.

“But it really shouldn’t have got to this point in the first place. The university should’ve listened to me and viewed me as an individual person with exceptional circumstances when I first asked for help with this issue.”

Liam Knights

Liam will now either donate the money he has raised on his Go Fund Me page to the homeless charity that helped him to turn his life around or refund the money back to his donors.

Liam said: “I’m going to put up a message on Go Fund Me asking donors whether they would prefer to have their donation returned to them or whether they would like the money to be donated to the charity that helped me when I was homeless, Inn Churches Bradford.”

A University of Leeds spokesperson said: “The University has come to an accommodation with Mr Knights and he will now be graduating to the normal timetable. We always encourage students to get in touch if they are experiencing difficulties and strive to arrive at solutions together.

“As he explains in the video he made with us, he received significant scholarship funding to support his studies. We wish him the very best for the future.”