On Friday the 8th of October Majid Ahmed posted on Lemn Sissays’ wall, saying the Chancellor’s apparent refusal to meet him was “disappointing.”
In the post, he claimed he was experiencing “poor treatment and unprofessional conduct by the University of Manchester and they have left me in a position where they are unfairly pressurising me to pay them £12,000 to be awarded my PhD – no academic issues whatsoever.”
Majid, a clinical research fellow from Bradford, grew up around “crime and drugs.” He thanks the university for all the opportunities they have given him but found himself without support or advice in a situation creating both financial and mental stress.
Majid Ahmed’s dispute began in 2014. After receiving a grant from the British Heart Foundation of £167,000 pounds in April, Majid asked the university for a costing of his PhD, which he received in September of the same year. In the letter, it clearly states Majid’s tuition fees would be covered by the grant. Majid claims this had been the impression given by the university since his grant application success.
However, a couple of weeks later, the university emailed Majid telling him this was no longer the case and he would have to pay his tuition fees himself.
Majid was left in a difficult financial position. Since receiving the grant he had turned down the opportunity to train as a doctor and took a staff position at the university. He now needed an advance on his salary.
While on a trip to the states, which Majid began planning in the time between correspondence with the University, the dispute began. He received some support, particularly from his supervisor in the states, Professor Mark Nelson. However, in the last three years, Majid claims he has struggled to gain support or advice from the Student’s Union, the doctoral academy, the Head and then Director of his department. Many have told him there was simply nothing they could do.
In his third year, Majid had been contacted by credit central. He said he was in great debt and was being threatened. Reaching out, again, to the University, Majid was told of a “Staff Fee Remission Form” in which he could potentially claim 50% of his tuition fees. “No one had told me before,” and this was “very late in the process.” Majid said it made you wonder “who is/isn’t entitled to it.”
He went on to submit a “retrospective application.” Majid believes this was a generous offer from himself. He had not meant to pay fees at all and as a member of staff also was being taxed and putting money towards his pension.
His application was, however, declined. He said this was because he was a “clinical research fellow,” the PhD was for his own benefit. Majid disputes this claim. He had been recruited after receiving a distinction in his Masters and developing a partnership with Dr Adam Greenstein. “It was a comprehensive case.”
After contacting Nancy Rothwell, Majid was referred to Professor Peter Clayton. Clayton had all correspondence reviewed, following which Majid finally received an apology for the curtness in the original email. A review of payment was also conducted and the university offered to pay for Majid’s final year, as well as the £300 for an extra year while he defended his PhD. Majid declined the offer claiming they had “not gone far enough”.
Taking his struggle to social media has led to what Majid described as “threats of disciplinary action from the University.” Since the post, Majid has met with Lemn Sissay in person, who has now given him support and advice, sharing his post on social media, calling it a “wake up call.”
Majid fears his decision to go public has ruined his academic career and questions whether to leave and return to his work later on. Though he adds “maybe I won’t because I was pushed out.”
The University is unable to provide a comment as the dispute is still ongoing.
Majid is still devoted to his work, despite his struggles. He wants to encourage young people to strive for a career in science and not put them off by his own experience.
Majid is committed to such projects as “I’m a scientist get me out of here” and is currently working on a digital academic networking site “Vascular Physiology” for those working in his field.