Today, hundreds of students will flock the halls of University of West London (UWL) to be honoured for their hard work in front of their teachers, families and loved ones. Unfortunately, I will not be part of their happy day which is also supposed to be my own happy day. The day when I will feel like my hard work as postgraduate student is finally celebrated. I chose not to be there for many reasons. But mainly because University of West London took me down to hell in the 3 months preceding this big day. Now, I am finally opening up on this issue but also on the unfair treatment I have received from them.
City: London, UK
Let’s briefly talk about me
I am a Moroccan national. I came to the UK on a student visa for my undergraduate degree at University of West London. It was all good the first couple of years. I studied BA (Hons) Accounting and Finance finishing off with a successful graduation at Wembley Stadium in July 2015. For the future, I wanted to study politics for my masters degree so I applied to Kings College, LSE and other top universities. But unfortunately, my applications were late and I did not get accepted to any. So, I decided to stay at UWL for my masters degree in Finance and Accounting thinking it would be nice to get more specialisation in the field… Well, studying is never a bad idea. However, staying at UWL was a decision I absolutely regret now.
How were my studies at UWL?
Well, I blame myself for doing a masters at UWL. But I was fairly satisfied with my undergraduate degree that I thought it was okay to stay there. I also had an alumni discount so it was quite attractive. However, on the ground, the university changed its staff. The new staff was more diverse and younger and “cooler”. But also, less experienced. So I felt like the quality of teaching dropped down to the lowest which clearly matched the University’s low ranking of 106 on the nationwide league table here! Cherry on top, I was not given choice of any optional modules but instead, the university kind of forced me and my peers to study “Business Strategy” and “Management Decision Making”. Both modules were quite unrelated to finance and accounting. Instead of more challenging and more important financial modules such as “Taxation” and “Auditing”, the university chose the simplest way. According to the failure that is UWL’s administration, there is no one to teach tax and audit. I felt cheated but I did not complain because I knew they would do nothing. Instead, I focused on my academic career.
I made a stellar application for King’s College, LSE and other top universities to study what I wanted to do originally, a masters degree in politics. Good news, in February 2016, I got accepted at King’s College to study MA Political Economy of the Middle-East. Few months later, I paid my deposit to secure a place until I meet all conditions. To make that happen, I concentrated my efforts to make my transition as smooth as possible from finance to politics, so I did my thesis at UWL about “Reactions of Tel Aviv Stock Exchange to war, terrorism and political instabilities in the Middle-East”. Everything was planned accordingly so that in September 2016, I could enrol into Kings College. But that never happened, and here’s why.
The Home Office is, of course, not in my favour!
Well, even though I pay extremely high fees to study in the UK, the Home Office surely wants to make my life harder. In July 2016, when I was working on my thesis so I could finish it on time to meet Kings College conditions. I received this strange e-mail from Kings College Admissions saying that the Home Office requires international students in the UK, who wish to study further courses in the same level, must proof that there is an academic progress between their two courses. In other words, I should prove that my masters at Kings is connected to the one at UWL. For me, it was about proving that politics and finance are connected and I couldn’t have a better example than my own thesis which is about the stock exchange and politics. So I ticked all boxes of their requirements.
However, the Home Office requires a letter to show that progress. But it should be issued from my current university which at that time was UWL. It states that the student must provide a letter from his current institution and the following letter must state that: “I am deemed highly likely to complete my course at UWL according to my grades from the registry”. Well, it was easy, because I had all my grades out but the thesis one. So I thought, it’s fairly straight forward to make judgement that I will pass my course given that all my grades are above 60. I requested this letter from UWL but what they did was stupidly reject my request. It was like they hit me with a bullet.
Judge by yourself! Part of UWL’s duties is to issue such letters. Read Paragraph 5.26 of Home Office guidance here.
Yes, it really felt like UWL hit me with a bullet…
On 31st August exactly, I was about to finalise my thesis, a project I worked on all summer. I go to the administration to request my letter. The woman working there, kindly yet firmly rejects to do it sending me off to the Student Services in the other campus. I meet with “Senior Student Services Advisor”, trust me, his “Seniority” is quite questionable… I request my letter stating that there is a change coming from the Home Office applying to all universities. Firstly, he never heard of the July 2016 update… And I was a bit worried that a person with huge responsibilities towards the Home Office and international students wasn’t updated on recent changes. So I knew from the start that if he doesn’t know the rules, he will not know how to deal with my case. My case is quite special because there aren’t many students who come to him to ask for this specific letter… So he needed to show some skills, some responsibility and a slight bit of judgement which sadly he doesn’t hold. It took me 5 minutes to find the set of rules and duties on internet which states that the Home Office gives the university the “OK” to write such letters to students in my case. Moreover, I am really suspicious of University of West London as it has already breached Home Office regulation in a scandal that was reported on the BBC. So how can I trust them if they have been negligent already in the past? But either way, since that day, I was on a rollercoaster.
Dark rollercoaster ride
I spent days going back and forth to UWL to request this letter as I never got a reply by e-mail nor by phone. The only choice, was sit miserably in front of this man’s office and wait. His answers were never firm nor clear because he was totally off topic most of the time. You see, the type of person that talks to say nothing. But I understood that he said that UWL would hold liability in the case that they say I successfully pass my course, but at the end, I don’t. I think it’s fair decision for someone who had an average grade of 35. But my grades range was between 60 and 80. So seriously, a blind person could tell that I could pass. Moreover, what was more shocking is that he completely refused to even take a look at my grades nor consult with my tutors for a second opinion. He just refused but until now, it is not clear on what basis this refusal was.
Anyway, I had the set of duties and guidance in front of me, written by the Home Office itself. So he was not making me silent anytime soon as I knew I was right from the start. I keep on requesting my letter: by phone, by e-mail and to other departments at university but sadly they all redirected me to him. I was not giving up. But time was ticking as my course at Kings College starts on 26th September and my Student Visa expires on 30 October. So time didn’t help either.
Three weeks of requesting the letter, and only 5 days before my course is due to start, I was devastated. I had no energy to fight, no energy to carry on and no energy for this injustice. So I went on, what I can only describe as, the most depressing trip of my entire life! I randomly decided I needed some break, so I went to Brighton for one night. I didn’t feel any better, so I went to Birmingham the next day, then Manchester the next day. I was on a trip leading nowhere. I always turn to travel because it helps solve problems but not in this case.
I was alone against a wolf. This was it. An incompetent man is about to ruin my academic career and my dreams. Monday 26th September, I was in a bed in a random hostel in Manchester while my new classmates were having their first lecture on Political Economy of the Middle-East, they were going to debate the Saudi Oil Crisis, the ongoing Israeli-Palestinian Conflict and the tragic Syrian Civil War – all topics I care about and my dream is not to just take a masters degree but to be part of that change. Or even to be that change. Nevertheless, I never wanted to report this man even though I was requesting my letter for one month already simply because I believed in him. In the sense, that I did not think anyone could be this stupid. But after my Manchester’s trip which was filled with sadness, I come back to London but it wasn’t over yet…
I became more vocal about this injustice and got legal advice and tried many other things in between but none was the right solution. On the side, I also started a formal complaint at university but they are just as slow and negligent, so again, not good. 31st September, already one month that I started begging for my letter. That’s when I had the idea to start looking for jobs while waiting. Clearly, sitting there and doing nothing was just getting me much more depressed. I applied to one job at Bloomberg and strangely, I was on an interview the next day. It was the perfect job, the dream job as Global Data Analyst. But unfortunately, I totally screwed the interview part, however, it was a nice experience that made me feel good for 2-3 days over this dark period. But quickly after, I was depressed again. I started to even loose weight because I couldn’t keep up with my diet nor with the gym. I was off social media for a while and I became very anxious. Then I decided to call my previous employer. I ask for a full-time job for one year, just the time I get the opportunity to apply for next year to study what I wanted and join uni again. They were extremely welcoming of that and the next day, I was in their office already. But my fight with University of West London is surely not over.
Do you see this e-mail I wrote on 6th October? I only received an answer to it on 16th October after writing 3 more e-mails in between…
By the way, I graduated…
…with a First… and a Distinction! I am no longer “deemed highly likely to pass my course” because I just did that with an impressive grade. My thesis was awarded an excellent 85. But despite all those grades and all the hard work that lead up to this, I was not happy. Not at all… This “victory” was extremely bitter because it just proved that unfortunately, I was really a victim of an outrageous and unfair treatment. The whole system is just wrong and the people running it are simply ignorant of how things work. I must say that I had a great support from many lecturers who were kind to talk to me and just be supportive. But that’s because they knew me and they knew that I don’t deserve that. It is the administration abusing its powers or I would say, stupidity does that. Moreover, believe me, I am not saying the whole story, there are details missing… Even after I graduate on 5th October, I only received my letter on 16th October, oh… it was with a mistake. So they had to re-write it again. Clearly, missing 4 weeks of teaching, it was no way I would have the chance to enrol to Kings College. My goals were completely destroyed.
This is it. Today, I am not going to my graduation, I have valid reasons. I know… people would say: “They will not care about you whether you go or not to the graduation!” Indeed, they will not care at all about me, because they never did. The administration of UWL is the one I blame for all the troubles they got me into, they refused to write me a letter on the basis that I might fail even though many signs show that I was million miles away from failure. And they never recognised that. Nor even took time to consult with my tutors, who one by one, know me by heart. They know me because I was present in classes, not only physically but I was committed to my work.
Update 20/07/17: Almost 11 months have passed since I first requested my letter. I suffered a lot from the actions of a ignorant senior staff at University of West London. I started a complaint with the Office of the Independent Adjudicator. They ruled recently that it is totally justified that I make my complaint. They recommended the university to make an apology and make up for the troubles and distress I have been through with a sum of money. By accepting this, I will be closing this chapter of my life. Almost a year of fighting. It was a long process but I won now. What do I win? Lessons. Because from a very bad situation that took me down to hell and depression, I am blessed that things turned out better than I ever expected. I learnt that no pain is forever and justice will always be made. I am now moving on because I got my justice. I will never forget but for my own happiness, I forgive.
So why should I go to my graduation ceremony when my university “deems that I am highly likely to fail”?