Unwanted in Russia, excluded from Cambridge

Asylum seeker left in limbo despite winning approval for university scholarship
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The Independent Online

A brilliant student is in danger of losing a place at Cambridge University after being caught in "no man's land" over funding for his course.

Eighteen-year-old asylum-seeker Angel Versetti is predicted to be one of the few students in the country to get top marks for his International Baccalaureate course.

As a result, Angel, a student at Brockenhurst College in Hampshire, has been given a provisional place to study Land Economy at the university's Selwyn College this autumn. He is predicted to score 45 points in his IB, the highest possible score.

Angel, who fled Russia three years ago with his mother to escape alleged persecution "because I look Chechen", has been told by the university he could not qualify for a loan as a home student because he did not have refugee status. "The fact that I will have lived in the European Union for over three years by the beginning of the academic year was, according to them, irrelevant," he said.

Undeterred he started looking for scholarships, bursaries and sponsorships to help him pay estimated costs of £20,000 a year to tide him through his studies. Help appeared at hand when the Santander group wrote to him saying it looked as if he would be eligible for a scholarship they funded at the university. But, he said, the university told him: "You have to decide what you are and what status you have. You are presenting yourself as an overseas student but you are not an overseas student. You are not a home student and therefore you have to pay overseas students' fees but you are not eligible for this scholarship because it's only for overseas students. We don't know who you are."

Nick Downer, bursar at Selwyn College, added: "Until the case is resolved he must be treated as an overseas fee student. If he makes his offer, we advised him that our view is that he should consider deferring to 2012. Although this moves him to the new fee regime, he would most probably not lose out. If his appeal fails, then he remains [with] overseas fee status and has more time to investigate funding possibilities with the Cambridge trusts and other bodies."

But Angel would have nothing to live on in the meantime. "With no status, no employment and no education, I will be just another ghost-person in this country with no future," he said.

A Refugee Council spokesman said: "The absurdity of treating asylum-seeking students as if they are overseas students caused this. They have to stop in the UK while their claim is heard. It is a wrong-headed policy."

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