The education sector can be quite brutal at times. Sky-high fees and a maze of bureaucracy has made higher education inaccessible to many. In one such case, the UK's University of Manchester has been embroiled in a controversy after a 27-year-old applicant died by suicide.
One of his tweets before his tragic death claimed that the applicant lost 1,000 pounds in deposit to a university only to realise that he couldn't afford the education.
Rory Wood, a student from Hereford, UK, was found dead on July 26, 2022 after going missing from his home for two days. One of the UK's premier institutions, the University of Manchester, is now embroiled in controversy following Rory's death.
How is UoM involved? The University of Manchester is part of the prestigious Russel Group of Institutions in the UK.
Rory Wood had applied for the University for a Master's Program. His application was accepted and he subsequently had to pay 1,000 pounds (Rs 96,000 approx) in deposit to the university to secure his place.
However, on July 23, 2022, he wrote in a tweet that he "lost one grand in deposit to a university" because it had become clear that he "hadn't made nearly enough money to fund the living costs".
In another tweet, he described his situation as "impossible and unliveable".
Everything just feels impossible and unliveable— Ghostface Kafka (36 Chambers) (@thekafkadude) July 23, 2022
His final tweet came on July 25, 2022, where he just said, "sorry."
Sorry— Ghostface Kafka (36 Chambers) (@thekafkadude) July 24, 2022
Upon his death, another Twitter user claiming to be Rory's friend blamed the university for driving him to death. The user said that the university took one grand from the applicant and then "rejected their application because they can't make [the] living costs.
So Manchester University took an applicants £1k, rejected their application because they can’t make living costs, and didn’t give the money back. This applicant, a friend, then dies by suicide because of his absolute hopelessness of his situation.— 🦭 spættet sæl 🌊 (@HarbourSeal) July 27, 2022
It’s absolutely scandalous.
However, Rory Wood's parents and brother "cleared the air" on the issue saying that "his battle with his brain sadly overcame him", relieving the university of any blame.
A message from Rory's family pic.twitter.com/FjOAE9jMAq— aarjan (@aarjanistan) July 27, 2022
But netizens weren't easy on the university, demanding that UK universities remove the "non-refundable deposit" policy altogether.
Scrap non refundable deposits immediately if you really want to 'do everything you can'— Rosalynd Southern (@rv_southern) July 28, 2022
The University of Manchester issued two responses regarding the incident, for which the administration was trolled for their insensitive remarks.
A University statement on online reports about a student applicant. pic.twitter.com/QvQ34y1Dd0— The University of Manchester (@OfficialUoM) July 27, 2022
An update on yesterday’s University statement. pic.twitter.com/WYybuhXavs— The University of Manchester (@OfficialUoM) July 28, 2022
For the international students: This case is also relevant to several international students applying to UK universities. UoM is quite a popular choice for international applicants. Rory Wood's story is an example of the financial pressures of seeking higher education despite being qualified.
UK universities are known to ask for a "deposit" after an applicant is accepted. This is meant to block their seats. Otherwise, the universities often tell applicants that they may not be able to guarantee a place later on. This deposit is almost always "non-refundable", it is clearly mentioned when the university asks for the money. And it also runs in several thousands of pounds or in Indian rupee estimation (a few lakhs).
So for whatever reasons an applicant is unable to make it to the university, the deposit money is wasted. Other than funding issues, for international students, visa troubles may also delay their plans. While some universities allow the students to attend in the next intake, some do not offer the option.
Most universities in the UK ask for a deposit, while universities in other countries allow accepted applicants to defer their intake without the need to pay a deposit. The deposit is separate from an application fee, which again varies from one university to another.
Whether this tragic instance brings about a change or not needs to be seen. The least the universities can offer is "refundable" deposits.