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19th August 2015

Straight-A* student denied student loan due to immigration status

Iraqi-born Hassan al-Sherbaz has lived in the UK half his life, attended both primary and secondary school in this country, but has been told he must pay full international fees if he wants to study Chemical Engineering at Imperial College

An Iraqi-born student who has lived in the UK since the age of nine achieved four A*s in his A-levels—and was denied a student loan, under the rule that only UK citizens or those with indefinite leave to remain in the country qualify.

Hassan al-Sherbaz was brought to Britain in 2006 with his parents who fled Iraq, where he witnessed daily “killings in the street.” However, his immigration status of discretionary leave to remain means that he must pay full international fees of £26000 per year, if he wants to attend his dream university Imperial College, London.

The Milton Keynes resident attended both primary and secondary school in the city, and achieved the top grade in his maths, further maths, physics, and chemistry A-levels. He met the offer to study Chemical Engineering at Imperial, but was told he did not qualify for a student loan.

He wishes to go into a career in oil, and wants to “[help] society and the environment.

“It was a very big shock [when they refused],” said al-Sherbaz. “I was thinking what am I going to do and how am I going to afford this. But I was very motivated to prove myself that I can get through this.”

Back before the family left Baghdad so that Hassan’s father could take up a Ph.D. in this country, the capital was “very dangerous. There were killings in the street. It was something that was part of our daily lives.”

Just for Kids, the legal firm that brought a similar case before the supreme court—resulting in a ruling that stated that total, unquestioned exclusion for anyone not a UK citizen or with indefinite leave was unjustifiable—said: “Our experience suggests that young people find not being able to go to university, when that would be a natural educational progression alongside their peers, incredibly difficult. They have worked hard to do well at school and at college, and aspire to achieve the best they can.

“Seeing their friends and peers go to university when they cannot, and being aware of being held back for as long as ten years in pursuing qualifications that are essential in a competitive job market, inevitably causes these young people to feel marginalised.

“They feel that it is deeply unfair as they are not asking for a grant of money but only to be loaned the money which will allow them to progress, alongside their peers, into well-paid work so that they can pay that loan back.”

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