Swansea University apologises to Nigerian student thrown off course after paying fees 'hours late'

  • ITV Wales' Swansea Correspondent Dean Thomas-Welch spoke to Emmanuel Okohoboh in an exclusive report

A student who was thrown off his degree course and told to return home to Nigeria has received an apology and an offer of compensation from Swansea University. 

26-year-old Emmanuel Okohoboh ​was one of three Nigerian students who told ITV Wales in August last year how they had been removed from their studies after paying tuition fees “hours late”. A banking crisis during Nigeria’s presidential election in February 2023 meant many students from the country struggled to transfer the funds before the university's March deadline.However, Emmanuel maintained he paid his £4000 fee within the deadline and the decision to remove him from his business management degree was “unfair”.

The ruling by the university meant the master's degree student faced the prospect of deportation after his student visa became void.

Swansea University also offered to pay Mr Okohoboh £1000 in compensation "in recognition of the failings identified". Credit: ITV Cymru Wales

Following an internal investigation, which identified several failings in the university’s handling of Emmanuel's case, Swansea University has now allowed Emmanuel to return to his studies.

In a letter, seen by ITV Wales, the university says it "sincerely apologises to Emmanuel for any confusion, distress and inconvenience these failings may have caused."

Swansea University also offered to pay Mr Okohoboh £1000 in compensation "in recognition of the failings identified and for any related distress and inconvenience which these failings caused to Emmanuel."A spokesperson for the university said they do not comment on individual cases but provide appropriate support to international students where possible and in line with their UKVI compliance requirements.

Emmanuel says he’s thankful he’s been allowed to return to his studies. “I was honestly not happy about it,” he told ITV Wales. 

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Emmanuel continued: “I’m grateful the university did their own internal investigation and found that the fault was not on my part, it was beyond my control and that there was nothing I could do about it.

"The university has now been able to reinstate me to continue my studies which I’m also grateful for.”

During our original investigation, Emmanuel claimed he was threatened by university staff with removal by security from the Bay Campus when he went to the faculty office to plead his case.

Swansea University said their staff did warn Emmanuel security would be called if he didn't leave the faculty office, but only after he had made multiple visits and was told nothing more could be done to help him.

Emmanuel says the whole experience has impacted his mental well-being.

“It was so depressing. I had a mental breakdown and I collapsed in my apartment due to the stress. I had to go to the hospital because of that,” he said.

“But, I was motivated by my passion and drive for studying and I was never going to give up and for the six months I continued to study online courses.”

“I always made sure there was a light at the end of the tunnel and I kept on pushing my career.”

'Not good enough'

Emmanuel and other Nigerian students, who claim they have been wrongfully removed from their studies, are being supported by Swansea charity Bame Mental Health Support.Its director, Alfred Oyekoya MBE, who is a grassroots community leader, says the compensation offer to Emmanuel from the university is not good enough.Mr Oyekoya says his charity had to financially support Emmauel after he was left using food banks and facing rent arrears.

Alfred Oyekoya MBE says the compensation offer to Emmanuel from the university is not good enough. Credit: ITV Cymru Wales

“A thousand pounds for someone who was severely depressed, who had to rely on food banks for six months, who is in arrears to his landlord is not enough,” he told ITV Wales.“What the university could have done is recognised his deposit as his full tuition payment, as he has had to start borrowing money again to pay his school fees.”“A thousand pounds compensation is not a true reflection on what should have been given to Emmanuel."

Deportation risk

Around 3,500 international students study at Swansea University with the vast majority originating from Nigeria, with only China and India providing more foreign students. 

Our investigation in August last year uncovered more Nigerian students who had been told they were no longer enrolled at the university and risked deportation.

They received e-mails telling them they would no longer be allowed on campus and should return home after the business degree students paid their tuition fees hours after the deadline. 

Emmanuel Okohoboh was one of three Swansea University students from Nigeria who spoke to ITV Wales about their experiences in August 2023. Credit: ITV Cymru Wales

Despite informing the university of the difficulties of transferring money from Nigerian banks as the country's government fell into turmoil, the university maintained its decision was in accordance with its requirements under its UKVI sponsor licence. 

Both Emmanuel and Alfred say Swansea University needs to reconsider the cases of these students who are facing the prospect of being deported.

Alfred said, “It worries me, I can only appeal to the university because it is within their control to look at these cases afresh and give them the chance of enrolling.“We must put this into context, they are not asylum seekers or refugees, they are individuals who have paid thousands of pounds to come to Wales to study.“The university needs to give them the benefit of the doubt because they only paid their tuition fee a few days late.

"Just like they have done for Emmanuel, please do the same for the other students and we can all celebrate together and allow these students to achieve their objectives.”

Nigeria had been in the middle of a financial crisis which made sending money abroad difficult. Credit: PA Images

Emmanuel says ITV Wales’ original investigation made headline news in Africa, particularly in his home country of Nigeria, where his family and the family of his friends were left concerned by the university's decision. 

“Coming from Nigeria, spending so much money to come here, it wasn't easy. Back home our families were terrified, they were scared thinking we had wasted everything, the effort, the money, the time.”

“Finally, I am here now and I am grateful for that but I am not happy that my friends are still left out. The university needs to look at their cases individually and give them what they deserve, give them what they want, which is to study.”

A Swansea University spokesperson said: “At Swansea University, we are proud of our international community, which comprises members from across the world.

"We are also mindful of the diverse and challenging situations faced by some of our students, prospective students and their families.

"We continuously monitor these international challenges and seek to provide appropriate support where possible, and in line with our UKVI compliance requirements.

“While we cannot comment on individuals, it is our policy to offer deferral to a future intake to any student unable to meet the conditions of enrolment, which include fee payment and compliance with visa requirements. 

“In appropriate circumstances, we may also seek to provide redress where required.”

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