Following the collapse of the organisation issuing his scholarship, Patrick Isaiah Ete has seen his university certificate withheld from him by Lancaster University until his final year’s tuition fees are paid in full.
Patrick worked incredibly hard for his degree, being the only person in the 15/16 academic year to be awarded a First-class degree in Mechatronic Engineering from Lancaster University, and yet due to external circumstances outside of his control, he is the only one to not benefit from it. Patrick Ete, a Nigerian international student who was on a scholarship to study at Lancaster University, was not the only one to suffer from the closure of the Rivers State Sustainable Development Agency (RSSDA), the party paying for his tuition costs. However, what is unique about his case when compared to other Nigerian international students who could no longer repay their tuition fees were the actions taken by the university.
Lancaster University, who proudly flaunt their award of being The Times’ International University of the year, was fully aware of the reasons that prohibited him from repaying his tuition fees. Yet, despite their numerous claims that they care about student welfare, they have decided to withhold Patrick’s degree certificate until he repays the tuition fees for his final year in full, with their ingenious solution; that they provide a letter certifying that he has completed his degree, not proving substantial enough for the many employers who have had to turn away Patrick on the basis of him not having a degree certificate.
This lack of empathy is alarming when contrasted with the humanising actions of other universities that have had international students left in the cold by the RSSDA. Universities such as the University of Essex and Nottingham Trent University have both deviated from their current payment program in recognition of these external circumstances and have granted university degree certificates to affected students, whereas Lancaster University has repeatedly refused to acknowledge these alternatives arrangements which could help Patrick find a suitable job and start repaying his student debt. As a result, he has been forced to take menial low-paying jobs in the hope that after slowly repaying his debt a decade from now, he will be able to access his degree certificate and start applying and furthering his career in an area he is passionate about; a reality that could have been easily avoided if Lancaster University approached his case humanely rather than in the cold and out of touch manner that has permeated many of its actions recently.
So, it must fall to us students and those affiliated with Lancaster University to bring this case to the attention of Vice-Chancellor Professor Andy Schofield and others within Lancaster University who can reverse the decision to withhold Patrick Ete’s degree certificate.
2. Our Proposals
We believe that Lancaster University should adopt one of two options:
(i) In recognition of the opportunity losses incurred on these students as a result of Lancaster University refusing to issue their degree certificate, a full or substantial wavering of the outstanding tuition fees should be issued to Patrick Isaiah Ete and other students at Lancaster University who have been affected by financial circumstances outside of their reasonable control.
(ii) The adoption of an alternative payment program that allows students that suffer from extreme external circumstances that impair their ability to repay their tuition fees to be granted their university degree certificate upon graduation, with the condition that the degree certificate can be revoked if the student fails to comply with the agreed scheduled payments.
Lancaster University must undertake one of these options or a similar option that recognises what little financial opportunity students such as Patrick Ete have in regard to paying back their tuition fees.
We, the undersigned, call for Lancaster University to consider and implement these proposals so that students who face extreme financial circumstances that impair their ability to pay their tuition fees will not see the hard work and time spent on receiving their degree wasted. We hope that Lancaster University recognises its position as not just an educational institution, but also as a social institution that cares deeply for the welfare of its student and that its generalising actions have a distinct impact on minorities who deviate from this cookie-cutter perception of what needs the university must provide its students. Patrick Ete is being punished by the university for not having a student-loans company pay for his tuition, and it is up to us to hold Lancaster University accountable.
For those who wish to contribute to the fundraiser helping Patrick Ete pay off his tuition fees: