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Brian White: Wolverhampton student 'loving' life at Oxford

By John Scott | Wolverhampton | News | Published:

Brian White gave Oxford University full marks as he prepared to start his four year degree in chemistry.

Brian White with Sharon Bishop outside his Oxford College

The 21-year-old won a race against time to receive permanent permission to remain in this country after 111,000 people signed a petition backing his bid to stay.

The eleventh-hour ruling meant he was able to take his place at Oxford.

And the Zimbabwe-born orphan, a former pupil of Highfields School in Penn, has just completed Freshers’ Week at his college Lady Margaret Hall.

Today he declared: “I am loving it. It is really, really good.”

The talented student, who was abandoned as a baby, lived in an orphanage in Zimbabwe until the age of six when a missionary introduced him to British-born Peter White, who was working in Zimbabwe.

Mr White fostered and then adopted him, before the family moved to Botswana when Brian was 12. He was left in Africa with a family friend until he got permission to follow them after they returned to Penn when he was15 but only got temporary permission to stay in the UK.

Brian’s education started in Zimbabwe and continued in Botswana until the age of 15 when he was allowed to join the rest of the family in Wolverhampton and became a pupil at Highfields School in Penn where his love of science soon impressed teachers.

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They encouraged him to apply to universities and he won the place at Oxford after gaining four A* grades and an A at A-level.

But his place was under threat because it was unclear if he would be able to stay in the country.

This prompted more than 110,000 people to sign an online petition set up by his friends urging the Home Office to rethink its decision to refuse him indefinite leave to remain in the UK.

Now he is living his dream at Oxford after being dropped there by Highfields School teacher Sharon Bishop, who has supported Brian both in and out of school while he continued his legal battle.

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Brian White outside his Oxford College

Brian said: “The first few days were hectic because it was Fresher’s Week but now things have settled down and it is calmer.” Brian, who starts his studies this week, continued: “I have had a quick look round the labs and they are excellent. I cannot wait for my course to begin in earnest.

“Doubts about whether I would be able to take up the place had been hanging round my neck for over 12 months.

“To go from possibly one of the best highs ever, to finding out I might not be in the country anymore, might not go to uni and might not see my friends, was just shattering.

“Now that weight has been removed I can settle down and concentrate on the work, just like any other student starting at university. Loads of people have recognised and congratulated me since I arrived last week. It feels like a home from home and a million miles from that orphanage in Zimbabwe.”

He concluded: “I am not going to let this incredible opportunity slip through my fingers after fighting so hard to get it. It is a chance of a lifetime and I intend to make the most of it because I know it will open many doors for me if I do well.”

In-depth interview with Brian White

Ms Bishop, who Brian travelled with to Oxford with fellow Highfields School teacher Kate Harding, said: “We were immensely proud. It was very emotional. We are much more than a school. We are a community. He was finally able to show his emotion after the long, anxious wait during which he kept things bottled up.

“As he ironed his shirt ready for that first day at Lady Margaret Hall, he said with a wide grin ‘I am really excited’.

“The college has lots of international students and when we left we were more than satisfied that he was in the right place.”

Alan Rusbridger, Principal of Lady Margaret Hall, who kept Brian’s place open for 12 months during his battle to stay in the UK, said: “We are thrilled.”

John Scott

By John Scott
Reporter/News Feature Writer

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