‘It gives me sleepless nights’: aspiring doctor who waited 5 years to go to medical school because she was not born in the UK can no longer get a student loan


A 24-year-old woman who has lived and studied in Newham for nine years cannot pursue her dream of becoming a surgeon because student finances will not give her a loan for her medical studies.

Mariam Ajibola moved to the UK at the age of 15 to live with her mother and brother – both British citizens – after the death of her grandmother, with whom she was previously in Nigeria.

Taking care of her sick grandmother from the age of eight had fascinated Mariam to become a doctor; she instantly performed well in school, completing her GCSEs at Newham College and her A-Levels at Newham Sixth Form College.

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“Coming to UK was like a second chance for me, because I had the support of my family, I had the support of my mother and I had opportunities – well, I thought I had opportunities – to explore my ambitions, “she said.

Mariam constantly works overtime as a health care assistant at Homerton Hospital to try to collect enough for her tuition.

But when Mariam finished her sixth grade, the Home Office did not grant her “leave to stay” in the UK, despite repeated requests; She was only granted status five years later, in October 2020, after having to defend herself in court in September 2020.

During the years she waited to be allowed to stay, Mariam was barred from working or studying in the UK; although she occupied her time by volunteering, even becoming a director of the The We Belong campaign for young migrants was tough.

Mariam said: “It was one of the most difficult times of my life because after the sixth all my friends went to college, and if I went back [to Nigeria] I would be essentially destitute because my grandmother’s house was no longer available and there was no one else to look after me.

“Being someone who was so well placed in school, I would be in magazines and on the walls and everything, going from there to not being able to do anything.

“I couldn’t even tell my teachers why I wasn’t going to college, my friends were wondering why I wasn’t going – a lot of people were just confused, because I was a go-getter. university.

“So people leave, go to college, find work, can afford things … it was really hard, and I had to shut up most of the time because even though I was explaining it to people, it was really, really hard to understand. “

As soon as her Home Office permit arrived in October last year, Mariam immediately applied for college, as well as for her current role as a health assistant at Homerton University Hospital.

Mariam was elated when she learned that she had been offered a place at Plymouth University, to study her dream career in medicine.

But right after receiving the offer, she was struck by the blow when she learned that she would not get a student loan from the government.

Student Finance England told Mariam that she does not meet the loan criteria of being an EU student or still ‘dependent’ on a UK citizen, now she is over 21.

Mariam Ajibola
Mariam with her colleagues at Homerton

She said, “It’s like, how do you define a ‘dependent’ on someone? I couldn’t work [for five years], this is my first job, and I have only been working since January.

“How am I not dependent on my mother? I have no way to pay my fees, even my mom can’t afford my tuition. “

Work as a health assistant at Homerton, Mariam saved enough to pay her tuition fee of £ 9,250 for her first year of college; but after that, she will just have to try and apply for different scholarships every year to keep paying her fees, and she still has no funds for her living expenses.

Mariam said that despite being offered her place in Plymouth in February this year, she didn’t tell anyone about it until August because she felt such “insecurity” about whether she could afford to go.

“It cost me sleepless nights, my anxiety increased because of it, it was so hard.”

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Support Mariam’s GoFundMe to raise enough money to take her to college here.

Mariam said that initially getting her job as a health assistant was “a blessing”, but now “the joy has been taken away because all I can think of is how am I going to pay my bills? tuition fees “, and she constantly works overtime. to try to compensate for his fees.

“I’m so worried that if I have to work so hard when I go to college, it will take away the joy of going to medical school,” she said.

“I couldn’t even celebrate it, because all I think about is how am I going to get out of it?”

She continued, “But I can’t give up … the only other option is to give up and it’s not an option for me, I removed that option.

“I’ve waited five years. I have to keep pushing, even though it’s all in the air, I have to do it because I just can’t give up. I have come too far to give up.”

A spokesperson for the Student Loans Company (SLC) said: “The SLC is responsible for the administration of the student finance and reimbursement policy, in accordance with the guidelines and agreement of the UK government and decentralized administrations. in Scotland, Northern Ireland and Wales.

“To receive student funding, all students must meet the required eligibility criteria, including residency, and SLC has no authority to establish residency eligibility categories.”

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The role of SLC is to administer student funding as determined by the Education (Student Support) Regulation.

The Ministry of Education is responsible for the regulation on student aid, but will consult with other ministries as necessary, for example with regard to the interpretation of immigration law.

To be eligible for student support, individuals must belong to one of the categories determined by the regulations of the Ministry of Education.

The Department of Education has determined that persons exempted from immigration rules under 8 (4) of the Immigration Act do not fall into one of the categories eligible for the purposes of receiving financial assistance for students.

Applicants are eligible for assistance by virtue of:

  • Are based in the UK
  • Have acquired the right of permanent residence
  • Have obtained refugee status
  • Have obtained humanitarian protection
  • Does a person benefit from stateless leave
  • Does a person benefit from a “Dubs leave”?
  • Have a long period of residence in the UK
  • Are migrant / border workers or self-employed from the EEA / Switzerland
  • Are established UK persons who have exercised a right of residence elsewhere in the EEA
  • Are EU nationals
  • Are children of Swiss workers in the UK
  • Are children of Turkish workers in the UK

Have you had an experience like Mariam’s, problems getting your permission to stay in the UK or a similar story that you would like to share? Send an email to [email protected]

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