Genius former Highfields student Brian White has won his battle to stay in the UK and take up his hard-earned place at Oxford University after an overwhelming national campaign that saw him receive support from tens of thousands of people and the UK media.
The talented Chemistry scholar faced having his dream of studying at the world’s best university snatched from his grasp and being deported to Zimbabwe when his application for a student grant was refused 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.
Brian had been due to start at Oxford in September 2016 and the university’s Lady Margaret Hall had taken the rare step of putting his place on hold for 12 months whilst he fought to stay in the UK. He has spent that time living with Martin Leigh, the partner of Highfields teacher Ms S Bishop, whilst the appeal process took place.
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, (pictured with Brian right) 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. He is now busy preparing to start at Oxford later this month.
Brian - who studied for his GCSEs and A-Levels at Highfields after arriving in the UK at 15 - said: "I let the information sink in for about five to 10 minutes. Then I started ringing everybody round to say thank you. I owe so many people so much.
“I have been offered a great opportunity in life and intend to take it with both hands and make the most of it.”
Ms Bishop, who has supported Brian at every step of his campaign, said: "We are absolutely thrilled to get this result - just over the moon.
"We were feeling really helpless just waiting as time ran out for him. The petition was a last throw of the dice and the response was just overwhelming.
"Brian is much more than just an outstanding pupil. He is a young man who has the potential to make a massive contribution to this country. We are delighted so many people, including the Home Office, agree with us.”
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 - following the offer to study chemistry at Lady Margaret Hall after he got 3 A*s and an A in A Levels last year - was rejected when it was discovered he had inadvertently overstayed his temporary visa and faced deportation.
Brian’s lawyer, Louis MacWilliam, said: “The Home Office has given Brian indefinite leave to remain and finally rectified the apparent error that was committed when he first arrived in this country. They have corrected something of an injustice.”
Take a look at just some of the national coverage Brian's plight received: