Maths 'genius' could lose Oxford place and be deported

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A petition to keep a straight-A student with a place at Oxford University in the UK has smashed 70,000 signatures.

Friends of 21-year-old "genius" Brian White are campaigning for a change to his immigration status which will allow him to legally stay in the country, where he has lived for six years.

However, he and his supporters are up against the clock as his place studying chemistry at Lady Margaret Hall is due to expire.

Mr White, from Wolverhampton, has already had to battle plenty of adversity, growing up in a Zimbabwean orphanage until he was six.

He was later adopted from Botswana by the White family, who are from the West Midlands, and came to the UK aged 15.

Mr White's supporters, including old school friends, have claimed that it was at that stage he should have been given indefinite leave to remain. But he was instead given limited leave to remain.

His plight has earned backing from award-winning columnist and writer Caitlin Moran, who called him a "maths genius", and best-selling author Philip Pullman.

The local MP Eleanor Smith has also added her voice to the campaign.

It was when Mr White tried to take up his place at Oxford that he found he was ineligible to receive student finance because of his immigration status.

While he was able to defer his spot for a year, the deadline is now looming ahead of the start of the academic year. If unsuccessful with his new application to the Home Office, he believes he could face deportation back to Zimbabwe if the matter is not settled.

Mr White said: "I haven't been there in seven or eight years, I don't know anybody there. I don't have any connections."

The problem first reared its head when a naturalisation application by his foster parents to become a British citizen was rejected. At the time, and given his age, he "thought nothing of it", he said.

It was only after studying for his A-levels, where he got three A*s and an A in triple science and maths, he found he had no legal right to settle permanently.

He said: "It's had a massive impact and put a big question mark over my future."

It was his school friend, 19-year-old Luke Wilcox, who launched the petition at change.org last week to publicise his friend's plight.

A view of All Souls' College from the Church of St Mary the Virgin, Oxford University. In the background to the right is New College. To the left is the Old Quadrangle of Hertford College
A view of All Souls College, Oxford University (William Conran/PA)

Mr Wilcox, who is studying law at Bristol University, said: "It's common sense to allow him to stay. So many people have said the situation is crazy.

"He's a great friend and is going to be a big asset to this country, studying and working. We want the Home Office to show some heart and compassion, and make the right decision."

Mr White described his friend's petition and the support it has garnered as "wonderful", adding "it's crazy how much support I've got".

A Home Office spokesman said: "We understand the urgency of Mr White's case and have contacted him to reassure him that we are looking to resolve his application as soon as possible."