NIGERIAN student Josephine Lawal has asked the University of Wales Trinity Saint David to refund the $20,000 she paid as tuition for a PhD programme but had to abandon because she was frustrated out by the racist attitude of its lecturers.
Ms Lawal, a 33-year-old Ondo State indigene, who obtained a BSc in Industrial Chemistry from the University of Ilorin in 2007, said that despite spending over five years in the UK, she was frustrated out of the programme. She attended the Cardiff Metropolitan University and got a Master’s degree in Business Administration in 2012 and then enrolled for her PhD the same year at the University of Wales Trinity Saint David, where she proposed to research on viral marketing.
According to her, the topic was changed to social media marketing and she was scheduled to end in 2015.Ms Lawal’s problems began when the supervisor assigned to her, Professor David Walker, allegedly did not attend to her for one year and after several complaints, she got another supervisor, Dr Sunita Dewitt.
Ms Lawal said: “My first year was wasted with no supervisor, which was part of the dilemma of a black student in the United Kingdom because they will not leave a white student without a supervisor for a whole year. When it became obvious that I would need to renew my visa as the programme dragged to five years, the university did not want to release the Confirmation of Acceptance of Studies (Cas) that I needed to apply for the visa.
“I was not the only one affected, so my colleagues and I had to fight to renew our visas. After a lot of argument, we showed the management where it was written in the handbook and because of that, they released the Cas for us to apply for our visas.”
When Ms Lawal submitted her thesis on December 31, 2016, there was no complaint about the research work. She said because her visa was to run out in 2017, she pleaded for the viva oral examination to be arranged on time so that she could return to Nigeria.
Ms Lawal added: “The viva was not conducted until April 2017. In the law of research in the UK, you cannot use a lecturer or someone you have put his name down as a supervisor to be an internal or external supervisor for a viva but guess what? my first supervisor, who abandoned my work, was brought for the viva and then the external examiner was late by one hour.
“They said my work was not up to a PhD standard and I should do corrections and submit it as a Master’s project. I refused and asked why I could not do major corrections and submit it as a PhD, which was what I bargained for but they refused.
“I complained and raised issues on the presence of my first supervisor. They later cancelled the viva, having realised their mistake.”
She noted that six months later, when a second viva held, there was no change in the panel that participated in the first, except for the removal of Professor Walker. Ms Lawal said her complaints that the panel was already biased towards her project were rebuffed and she was told that the panel upheld its earlier decision.
All she got was an offer from the university to write an appeal. Ms Lawal noted that the university management later offered to give her a Master’s certificate, which she rejected.
While describing the university as disorganised, Ms Lawal lamented that she had wasted over $20,000 and seven years of her life. She insisted that her ordeal bordered on racism, adding that many international students suffered the same fate and never graduated.
Ms Lawal said the lawyers she contacted in the UK to recoup her money said the case was between her and the university. She then appealed to the Nigeria’s foreign minister Geoffrey Onyeama, the chairman of the Nigeria Diaspora Commission Abike Dabiri-Erewa and the education minister for Adamu Adamu, to come to her aid.