In Depth

'Brilliant student' headed for Oxford University fears deportation

Brian White, who began life in a Zimbabwean orphanage, has lived in the UK since he was 15

A 21-year-old from Wolverhampton, UK, could lose his place to study at Oxford University because of issues with his citizenship.

Described by the university as a "brilliant student", Brian White has had to defer the offer to study chemistry and fears deportation if he is not granted leave to remain by the UK Home Office.

Born in Zimbabwe, White grew up in an orphanage until he was adopted at the age of six. He moved with his new family first to Botswana and then back to the UK, his adoptive father's home country, when he was 15.

According to the BBC, an application made in 2014 for naturalisation was rejected by the Home Office, because when White arrived in the UK, he was only granted limited leave to remain by the Home Office, not the required status of indefinite leave. A new application for indefinite leave to remain, made last year, is still pending, says The Guardian.

Despite the uncertainty over his future White continued to study for his GCSEs and A-levels, earning four A*s - the highest grade. He secured his Oxford place, but could not take it up as he was not classed as a home student and was therefore ineligible for the financial support available for UK students.

While White says he doesn't not feel unfairly treated by the Home Office, he is concerned that more than his studies are at risk.

"I'm not legally allowed to work, so I assume I would be deported to Africa," he told the Guardian.

"I don't know what I would do. I don't know anyone there. I'd have to start again. This is the most important thing to me right now. Everyone I know and love lives here."

The Home Office has said it understands the urgency of his case and will resolve it soon.

An online petition to the Home Office in support of the student has more than 90,000 signatures at time of writing and Oxford University is keeping its offer of a place open for the time being.

"I have had the personal pleasure of knowing Brian since the start of 2013, having met him at school and quickly developing a close friendship with him. He is possibly the hardest working person I have ever met, but it is his enthusiasm to help those around him that I am inspired by each and every day," his friend Luke Wilcox wrote on the petition website.

Journalist Caitlin Moran, who also hails from Wolverhampton, and author Philip Pullman are just two of the well-known personalities who have shared the petition.

Alan Rusbridger, principal of Lady Margaret Hall, the Oxford College that White is hoping to attend has also voiced his support.

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