Great Britain

Teenager denied student loan despite coming to Britain as a baby

A woman who came to the UK as a baby has been denied access to a student loan that would allow her to attend university.

Oudnath Sanni, 19, came to the UK from the Netherlands when she was 18-months old and has not left the country since.

Due to bad advice from a family solicitor, Ms Sanni’s British citizenship application was mishandled resulting in it being denied. Subsequently, her only option was to re-apply for leave to remain status which was granted earlier this year.

As a result of the issue, Student Finance England (SFE) does not consider Ms Sanni a “continuous resident” and is therefore ineligible for a loan.

The teenager faces missing out on her dream of becoming a medical scientist, even after receiving five university offers, including some from Russell Group universities, following her A-level results.

Ms Sanni, from Coldblow in South London, said: “University has always been a dream of mine because I’m from an immigrant family.

“For us, education is our best source of social mobility. Me pursuing my dreams education-wise would help my family progress.”

The teenager, who hopes to pursue a career finding a cure for sickle cell disease and other genetic conditions, said she had never imagined not attending university.

However, after being rejected by Student Finance, she been left considering that possibility as her family, from a working class background, are unable to afford her tuition and living fees which amounts to over just under £50,000 over three years.

According to SFE eligibility rules, Ms Sanni would have to wait at least three years before being considered a continuous UK resident and have the chance to become eligible for a loan - which would still not be guaranteed after this period.

“Being stuck in this position does take a toll on you,” Ms Sanni said.

“Being left out socially has already impacted my mental health. The social aspect of being in the UK is not something that a lot of people have to worry about, I’ve missed out on a lot of things already,” she continued.

“I’ve kept it to myself for a long time.”

Ms Sanni was left with the option to crowdfund her university fees, an effort that has already raised just under £5,000 through GoFund Me.

She hopes sharing her story will raise awareness for other people struggling in similar positions.

A spokesperson from Student Finance England said: “To receive student finance, all students must meet the required eligibility criteria, including residency, and SLC has no authority in setting out the residency eligibility categories.

“In this case Miss Sanni does not meet the residency-based eligibility criteria as she did not hold a leave to remain status for the last three years prior to her course starting. As Miss Sanni was awarded leave to remain on 31 March 2021, if she remains resident in the UK, she will be eligible to apply for student finance in the 2024/25 academic year.“

The Home Office, which does not routinely comment on individual cases, said: “To qualify for student finance, an individual must be lawfully resident in the UK for three years prior to the first day of their course.

“The Home Office works closely with the Office of the Immigration Services Commissioner and will report anyone suspected of providing poor or illegal advice.”

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