UK PM Sunak sparks mixed reactions after saying ‘you don’t have to attend university to succeed’

The United Kingdom Prime Minister, Rishi Sunak has sparked mixed reactions after saying people don’t have to attend university to succeedd in life.

Sunak, in a short post on his social media accounts on Wednesday, said, “You don’t have to go to university to succeed in life.”

His comment comes at a time of challenges for international students in the UK, particularly those from Nigeria and Iran.

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Hundreds of students in the UK have been warned they may not be able to graduate or re-register for the next academic year if they don’t settle outstanding debts. Institutions like the University of Sussex have cautioned students, mostly migrants with debts, about potential obstacles in continuing their studies.

One unnamed Nigerian student at Sussex with outstanding debts stated: “We have no intention of not paying; we’re willing to meet our obligations, but we’re pleading for the university to grant us some time. Since the exchange rate tripled, my monthly income of £800 is barely enough to cover the £182 weekly accommodation, leaving me struggling to survive as a student in Brighton.”

Adenike Ibrahim, another student, was close to completing her dissertation after two years of study when she missed one payment, was removed from her course, and reported to the Home Office. Despite paying the outstanding fees, she was not re-enrolled and was told she must leave the country with her young son. Ibrahim said, “I did default [on payments], but I’d already paid 90% of my tuition fees and I went to all of my classes. I called them and asked to reach an agreement, but they do not care what happens to their students.” She described the experience as “horrendous” and added that her son has been in distress.

Nigerian and Iranian students are among those affected, struggling to pay fees after their home currencies crashed.

Some universities in the UK have withdrawn students who missed fee instalments and reported them to the Home Office after their savings were depleted due to the crash in Nigeria’s currency. The universities stated they had “no choice” as non-payment breached visa sponsorship rules, but they tried to assist students with bespoke payment plans.

The number of Nigerian students in the UK has surged from 6,798 in 2017 to 59,053 by December 2022, with a sharp rise in dependents from 1,586 in 2019 to 60,923 last year. The Office for National Statistics (ONS) reported that the proportion of study-related visas granted to Nigerian dependents increased from 19% in 2019 to 51% in 2022.

In response to record migration levels, the UK government has implemented stricter immigration policies for overseas university students.

These include preventing students from bringing family members and banning the transfer from student visas to work visas post-graduation, along with prohibiting students from switching to work routes before completing their studies.

However, Sunak’s position was a surprise to many people as he has achieved academic qualifications in some of the top universities in the world.

He graduated with a first class bachelor’s degree after studying philosophy, politics and economics at Lincoln College, Oxford before earning a master’s degree from Stanford University in California as a Fulbright Scholar.

Reacting to the post, X user with the username @UltraTV90 called out Mr Sunak for discouraging education while calling him to leave his position as UK’s Prime Minister — “a whole PM discouraging education? Please leave DOWNING,” the user wrote.

“Nothing to see here, just the Prime Minister discouraging people from getting an education,” another user with the username @HOOTCHY commented.

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Meanwhile, a user with the username @therealmissjo sided with Mr Sunak, saying “many people I know and have worked with did not go to university. Some of them are the most successful people I know. Financially as well as otherwise.”

Another person with the username EssexPR tagged Mr Sunak’s statement as “correct,” stating “some of my most successful friends worked way up, started at the bottom of companies. Others started their own firms in their twenties.”

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