A blind international student who claims he was discriminated against by Dundee University has launched a last minute bid for a reprieve just days before being forced to leave the country.
Campaigners for Bamidele Chika Agbakuribe are urgently seeking a Scottish university willing to offer a scholarship to the Nigerian researcher after his student status was revoked in the wake of a row over alleged “disability and racial discrimination”.
Mr Agbakuribe, 36, who moved to Dundee with his four school-aged children in 2016 to work towards a PhD, has been told he must leave the UK by Wednesday – the same day his 15-year-old son is to win an academic prize.
Dundee University has repeatedly rejected any suggestion of wrongdoing and stated the decision to terminate his studies “was made solely on the basis of a lack of academic progress against a background of extensive and dedicated support”.
Mr Agbakuribe claims he was isolated from his peers, suffered a lack of appropriate software and supervision, and was subjected to “shocking mistreatment” by the institution. He believes his departure was “stage managed” after he complained.
The family were forced to sell their home to afford fees following a devaluation in the naira, the currency of Nigeria, and Mr Agbakuribe fears he will be forced to return home with nothing if another institution cannot be found in time.
He said: “If we have to leave Scotland in these conditions, without my PhD certificate, we will return to Nigeria in disgrace, penniless and destitute, and my sponsor will demand that I repay the money it paid to the university.
“Yet I came to Scotland to return to Nigeria with improved career prospects, so I could support my family as a blind man.”
Campaigners for Mr Agbakuribe insist they have a 74-page dossier of emails to back up his claims but the father-of-four has been denied an appeal because he took too long to file the necessary paper work.
Robina Qureshi, director of Positive Action in Housing, has been advocating on Mr Agbakuribe’s behalf and confirmed his supporters now include Aamer Anwar, rector of Glasgow University, and Sabir Zazai, CEO of the Scottish Refugee Council.
The Scottish Trades Union Congress, Reverend Dr Robert Calvert of Dundee’s Steeple Church, president of the Scottish Afghan Society Mohammad Asif, and Carlo Morelli, president elect of UCU Scotland, are also among those to have pledged their support.
Ms Qureshi said: “We are now trying to help Bamidele find another university prepared to offer him a PhD scholarship so that he can get his certificate and return with his family in dignity to Nigeria and rebuild their lives.
“We are also seeking a kind benefactor who might offer them a place to stay in Dundee while we try to work out the best way forward.”
Dundee University insisted it has an obligation to ensure academic standards are “consistently applied” and said it would be wrong to permit a student to continue on a programme when these standards have not been met.