Meeting with BIS

The following blog is written by Let Us Learn campaigner Arkam Babar. Arkam was born in Pakistan and has lived in the UK since he was 9 years old. He won a place to study Chemistry at Queen Mary University but has had to put his education on hold due to the student finance regulations. He now campaigns for access to higher education and here he describes meeting with the Department of Business Innovation and Skills (BIS) to discuss their recent consultation.

Outside BIS with (from left to right) Emma from STAR, our Shauneen, Kamena from Coram and Duncan from UKCISA. And Dami at the front!

With only six days’ notice, I discovered that I would be representing Let Us Learn at a meeting with BIS. At first I was really scared because it was such a big opportunity for us to make a positive change. To mess up this chance was simply out of the question. We were asking for a change to the suggested new rules, not just for us but for thousands of other students. I started to prepare my story to present to BIS, so they would understand the seriousness of the problem.

Although I have been blocked from university, it’s not like I cry everyday about the situation. I believe that everything happens for a reason and I believe that one day we will all be at university, looking at these days as distant memories. We have to make the best of what we have now and, being in the UK, we have a lot. But, even so, I am still passionate about my education. And, however much I philosophise, I do definitely still feel angry at times about the situation, for myself and for others. I made sure this was clear from my story.

On the day of the meeting there was a correlation between my heart rate and our distance from the meeting venue. I was definitely still very nervous. When we arrived we introduced ourselves and then I shared my story. This was very scary. It made me feel quite vulnerable and the flow of emotions was quite hard to stop once I got talking. But I remembered why I was there, which was to highlight how there are thousands of stories like mine and thousands of young people like me who are impacted. When I finished I felt as if a burden had been lifted.

After me it was Dami’s turn and she highlighted all the other flaws of the the suggested rules. We then discussed whether there could be other options that would enable even more young people to attend university. Towards the end Dami and I spoke again about the impact of being denied access to higher education. Coming to the UK and constantly being turned away from opportunities because of the colour of our passports has been hard enough already. Britain is my home. I love living here. I have lived here for nine years and look forward to another ninety.

I would say that BIS were sympathetic with the Let Us Learn cause. It seemed that it was not their intention to block students like me, Dami and everyone involved with Let Us Learn from going to university. We were just trapped in a loophole in the rules. I hope they do realise just how important this is for us. We are not asking for much, just a loan to study which we will then pay back.

Arkam and Dami raising awareness of Let Us Learn and the student finance rules with Dami at an event in a London college

I would like to finish by saying thank you to everyone at Let Us Learn and Just for Kids Law because they have helped me so much and given me new experiences which most people can only dream of. These experiences can be life changing, and motivate you to go a little step further. I have also met truly amazing people. I would name you all but I have a fear of missing someone out. We are like brothers and sisters looking out for each other. That’s what makes this organisation special.

This is too much for my first ever blog now. Thank you for reading and remember if you can take it you can make it. Adios 🙂

Quote of the day: “If you cannot do great things, do small things in a great way”, Napoleon Hill.

By Arkam Babar.