Muslim students face finance dilemma over tuition fees

Three Muslim students at Bradford university Muslim students ponder their financial options as fees go up

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Bushrat Almari is from Bradford and is studying for a pharmacy degree at Bradford University.

Like many Asian students in further education she lives with her family and is fortunate that her father can manage to pay the annual £3,000 tuition fees.

But that will change next year when they go up to £9,000, meaning that her sister will be prevented from getting a degree.

As practising Muslims they cannot take out a student loan as it has to be paid back with interest, which Bushrat says is forbidden.

"I follow my faith, so for me taking out a loan, no matter how low the interest rate may be, is just not an option.

"And it's the same for all my Muslim friends who do not want their beliefs to conflict with going to university."

'No alternative'

According to the Islamic faith, paying or charging interest on any loan is not permitted. Many Muslim students are therefore facing a major dilemma in trying to pay future tuition fees without applying for student loans.

Ishtiaq Ahmed, spokesman for the Bradford Council for Mosques said this was a mandatory requirement, but he also pointed out that a consensus amongst Islamic scholars in the UK now exists, and that means those rules can be modified.

"We are living in a non-Muslim country where there is no regular Islamic banking system, so in this case you are allowed to pay interest on a loan if there is no alternative, and I would say that this is very much the case here with students in higher education," he said.

"Having said that, there will be those who choose to follow their faith very strictly and will not apply for any loan."

'Priced out'

Waqar Choudhry, a student from Oldham, says that his family will not be able to find the £9,000 a year tuition fees for his cousins, who may find that university is no longer an option.

"This hike in fees is just too much and it's come in one go, how can we afford to pay - our community will lose out badly here."

According to the National Union of Students many Muslims will be prevented from going on to higher education next year, and they are worried.

Imaad Faghmous is the NUS academic affairs officer at Bradford University.

"It will be a sorry day if access to education is governed by the ability to pay your tuition fees.

"Nationally we are working with other groups and providers of Islamic finance to see if there is a way out of this massive problem which will affect one major community in the UK."

Nabil Ahmed represents the Federation of Islamic Student Societies Nabil Ahmed from FOSIS fears the aspirations of many Muslim students will be affected

Mohammed Hussain is from a strict Muslim family in Bedford and he is studying for a degree in physiotherapy.

"What about people like me who are not from an affluent background and who've fought hard to get to university, will we be thrown on the scrap heap?

"In my family already my siblings and cousins are being told that they may have to rethink about going on to further education, and maybe try and get a job instead. It's all down to money and that's just not right".

There are just over 100 Islamic Societies in British universities and most are members of the Federation of Student Islamic Societies or FOSIS.

National chairman, Nabil Ahmed, says they are in urgent talks with the government to try to find a workable solution to what he says is a major issue for them.

'Talent will be lost'

"It will be unthinkable if Muslim students are priced out of the education market and are forced to go abroad to continue with their higher education.

"Students with great minds and talent will be lost... we must stop this from happening."

Mr Ahmed says they want the government to work with them to try to find an alternative solution not just for Muslims but for all students who will not be able to pay the huge hike in fees next year.

"We are looking for a new type of student finance initiative, free of interest, and which should be equally priced to what's currently on offer.

"This will enable Muslim students to go to university without the issue of loans clouding their judgement or preventing them from applying for places."

A spokesperson for the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills said: "The department has met with the National Union of Students and the Federation of Student Islamic Societies to discuss this issue. These discussions are ongoing."

You can hear more on Asian Network Reports on the BBC Asian Network at 1230 BST and 1800 BST Monday to Friday and after on BBC iPlayer


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  • rate this

    Comment number 290.

    In articles such as this student loans always seem to be the be all end all of degree finance. However, there are many other options outside of this: not only can one work and save, the OU also allows one to study part-time as I am at 31 due to coming from a poor and relatively uneducated background. Essentially it comes down to how much you want something and how hard you are willing to work...

  • rate this

    Comment number 215.

    Theres a really very simple solution to all of this craziness.

    1. Stop the insane idea that absolutely everyone should go to university.
    2. Give full grants to the porportion of places on each course that the country actually needs.

    Result: Degree is more valuable again due to fewer graduates. Fewer people doing unnecessary courses. Students aren't in crippling debt.

    Win all round?

  • rate this

    Comment number 202.

    Some financial institutions are already offering 'Islamic loans' to enable those who do not wish to pay interest to borrow money - why cannot students whose faith prohibits them paying interest go to such banks to get the money they need for fees and living expenses?

  • rate this

    Comment number 179.

    As a Muslim from a devout Muslim family who plans to go to university in September 2012, I will be taking out a student loan regardless, and to all my fellow Muslims if the issue of loans is clouding your judgement or preventing you from applying for places, remember God gave you a brain and free will, p.s. Multiculturalism didn't fail, it was the arrogance from all parties that defeated it.

  • rate this

    Comment number 155.

    To: 124.Mohammed Begum
    Of course there are negative comments on here. What is fair to you is not fair in everyone elses eyes. All students have to pay the fees whatever beliefs they have. Why should non-muslim students have to pay their fees while muslim students get away with not paying any. The answer is that muslim students should find alternative ways of financing their University education.


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