An Indian student was denied a visa to study at a UK university after currency fluctuations left him less than £20 short of the amount required for living costs.
The student, who had paid his course fees in full, fell foul of Home Office rules stating that applicants must have funds in their bank accounts equivalent to £800 for each month of their courses.
Having deposited enough money to meet the total of £7,200 specified for maintenance, the student was told that his visa application had been denied. This was because he had £7,180.18 in the bank when the total was converted into sterling: £19.82 less than he was supposed to have, according to documents shown to Times Higher Education.
The value of the rupee has fluctuated wildly in the past few months, and it fell by 2 per cent on the day the visa was assessed.
An appeal for leniency by the university, which has asked not to be named, has been refused, with a reassessment of the case in India likely to take up to three weeks, the institution said.
The 22-year-old student paid £300 for his visa application and is unlikely to get his permit in time to start the new term, so his course fees may have to be refunded, the university added.
“A student has put money aside in good faith and has been turned away due to circumstances completely beyond their control,” said the university’s vice-chancellor. “You can understand why you need rules about this type of thing, but there should be some flexibility.”
Other universities were likely to have been hit by similar problems, the leader added.
“The callous way that officialdom appears to be dealing with these students is causing a lot of bad feeling towards the UK.”
Under Home Office rules, students must “hold a specified amount of funds [in sterling] for 28 days prior to making an application”. If the minimum balance dips below that amount at any point during the 28 days, the visa can be denied.
Applicants should take depreciation into account to ensure that they can display “adequate funds” on the date of their application, the rules state.
Edward Acton, vice-chancellor of the University of East Anglia and chair of Universities UK’s task force on the Tier 4 student visa system, said: “If verified, this case would suggest that the Home Office’s policy and attitude is continuing to damage UK universities in Indian eyes.
“The US is sharply increasing its drive for quality international recruitment, and we need a national drive to do the same.”