Former Highfields student Brian White, whose battle to stay in the UK captured hearts across the country, has started the next chapter of his life by taking up his hard-earned place at Oxford University.
The talented Chemistry scholar is embracing life at the world’s best university, where he’ll be studying for the next four years.
The 21-year-old faced having his dream of studying at Oxford snatched from his grasp and being deported to Zimbabwe when his application for a student grant was refused in 2016 because he no longer had permission to live in the UK.
Having been refused indefinite leave to remain, the 21-year-old’s life was left in limbo for over a year whilst he appealed against the decision. His plight led to an overwhelming national campaign that saw him receive support from tens of thousands of people and the UK media, before the Home Office granted him indefinite leave to remain.
During his fight to stay in the UK, Brian spent his time living with Martin Leigh, the partner of Highfields teacher Ms S Bishop. The proud pair recently travelled with him to Oxford to help him settle into his new home alongside the country’s finest academics.
Brian said: “I have been offered a great opportunity in life and intend to take it with both hands.
“The last few weeks have been a whirlwind but now I am delighted that I am now here at Oxford. I am so grateful to everyone who has helped to make this possible and I will do all I can to repay their kindness, generosity and support by studying hard and making the very most of my time here.”
Brian lived in an orphanage in Zimbabwe until the age of six when a missionary spotted the bright boy's potential and introduced him to British-born Peter White who was working in the country and had two children and a Zimbabwean wife.
Mr White first fostered and then adopted Brian, who was 12 when he moved with his new family to Botswana, where he was later left with one of their friends on their return to live in Penn. He was allowed to join them at the age of 15 but immigration officials gave him temporary rather than indefinite leave to remain here.
This was only spotted when Brian's application for a student grant in 2016, following the offer to study Chemistry at Lady Margaret Hall after he got 3 A*s and an A in A Levels, was rejected when it was discovered he had inadvertently overstayed his temporary visa and faced deportation.
Lady Margaret Hall took the rare step of putting his place on hold for 12 months whilst he fought to stay in the UK.
His story started gaining local media attention and the backing of a number of celebrities, including soul superstar Beverley Knight and author Sathnam Sanghera before a petition started by his friend, Luke Wilcox, turned his case into a national sensation.
The online petition urging the Home Office to rethink its decision to refuse him indefinite leave to remain in the UK was signed by more than 111,000 people whilst his story was picked up by the national press, including The Guardian, The Independent, BBC, Evening Standard, The Mirror, Daily Mail and BuzzFeed, among others. He also appeared on This Morning alongside Eamonn Holmes and Ruth Langsford.
After months of waiting for his future to be decided, he was delighted to receive a call from lawyer, Mr Louis MacWilliams, confirming the news he had been waiting for.