Former Highfields student Brian White has captured the attention and hearts of thousands of people, after his battle to take up his well-earned place at Oxford University was picked up by the media.
Talented Brian won his place at the university - officially ranked the best university in the world - after outstanding A-Level results which saw him achieve three A* grades in Chemistry, Physics and Biology and an A in Maths.
But the life-changing experience could be snatched from his grasp due to uncertainty over his status in the UK, which threatens to end in him being removed from the country.
An orphan in Zimbabwe up until the age of six, Brian was first fostered and then adopted by British-born Peter White and eventually moved to the UK aged 15. It was when he accepted his place at Oxford University and applied for a student grant that it emerged his permission to stay in this country had expired.
Former MP Rob Marris, who took up Brian’s case before his retirement, said that there had ‘regrettably’ been mistakes made by the Home Office regarding Brian’s case whilst immigration expert, Louis MacWilliam, a solicitor with London firm Bindmans, has made a fresh application for Brian to stay in the UK. He said it appeared Brian should have been granted indefinite leave to enter at the first instance.
Now 20, Brian works as a volunteer teaching assistant at Highfields whilst he waits for his future to be decided. He is living with kind-hearted Martin Leigh, the partner of Highfields teacher, Ms S Bishop, after his father was moved to a care home, potentially leaving him homeless.
Brian’s case has now been picked up by a number of media outlets, including the Express & Star and ITV Central News. He has also received support from celebrities, including former Highfields student and soul superstar, Beverly Knight, and prominent journalist and author, Sathnam Sanghera.
Ms Bishop said: “It has been heartwarming to have received so many messages of support from people since they heard of Brian’s story in the media. He truly is an incredible young man with such potential and it is wonderful that so many people care about his future.”
Headteacher, Graham Tate, said: “Being awarded a place at Oxford is a great achievement for any student and it is always an especially proud moment for Highfields to have one of their students recognised among the country’s academic elite.
“Brian has already overcome so much adversity yet has displayed an absolute determination to do the very best with his life. He has so much potential for a brilliant future and it would be a tragedy if this is ripped away from him. We will do everything we can to support him all the way.”
Keith Sedgebeer, Chair of Governors, added: “A failure to grant him permission to stay will shatter both his future and his dreams. In my view this would not only represent a personal tragedy for him but also the tragic failure of the country to support and nurture one of its most outstanding young people who has the potential to make a massive contribution to our future.”