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 177.

    13 Minutes ago
    If you spell Muslim with a little "m" instead of a capital, you either have some respect issues or some ignorance of written English issues.

    I spell it with a little m deliberately because I have no respect at all for anyone deluded by any religion

  • rate this

    Comment number 176.

    Bieng a muslim who graduated. i took out tuition fee loan to support my education. as i didnt want to burden my family to pay. i know alot of muslim students in the same situation and my brother is doing the same. alot of muslims need to realise paying interest is not a sin. making a comment like this muslim will say im no scholar but the fact is these "scholars" cant agree with ... continued

  • rate this

    Comment number 175.

    12 Minutes ago

    If you spell Muslim with a little "m" instead of a capital, you either have some respect issues or some ignorance of written English issues.


    While others have superiority issues. Hardly adds to the debate does it.

  • rate this

    Comment number 174.

    @ 166. Poddy100

    I'm so sorry, but I think we would have to draw the line at the cat!

  • rate this

    Comment number 173.

    The real issue here is that the UK is a non muslim country and is fundamentally uncompatible with those who want to live as muslims.
    These issues should have been originally circumvented by making all immigrants adopt a British lifestyle as a condition of staying here.
    I feel strongly that no considerations should be made to those who refuse to adopt to mainstream British views and lifestyles.

  • rate this

    Comment number 172.

    So, if a "Muslim Bank" can give interest free loans (although I suspect it's merely called something else) can anyone apply for one.....or will they be denied if Non-Muslim?

    @mohammed begum/77: How can it be discriminating to apply the same rule to ALL students?.....It is your reverse logic that is "discriminating". There may be ignorance in some of these postings: Yours is a classic.

  • Comment number 171.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 170.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • rate this

    Comment number 169.

    last comment delted - why?

    so will try again

    if 'you' do not like the system in the uk then go to university in Saudi/Pakistan/Yemen etc etc

  • Comment number 168.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • rate this

    Comment number 167.

    Muslim's are not being stopped from education.They have chosen to live in a outdated mode of life because of a outdated religion.This religion keeps thinking the same as it did over a thousand years ago and cannot come up to date in the modern world.Things change,unfortunately this religion does not.They even keep on about the Crusades as though it is still taken place.Get up to date Islam.

  • rate this

    Comment number 166.

    Well I believe that I should get free money to study, also I believe that I should get a free house, a plane, a boat and a cat. Just because I believe this does that make it right?

  • rate this

    Comment number 165.

    So what?

    They will have to fund tuition fees the same way they fund house purchases or car purchases wont they? They manage that dont they?

    Or do they expect positive discrimination on this?

    There are a lot of other people facing far greater hardship than this self induced situation.

  • rate this

    Comment number 164.

    If you live in this country then you have to abide by the rules of the land. If you don't like this then you have the freedom to leave this country.

  • rate this

    Comment number 163.

    Muslim interest free mortgages work like this....Islamic bank buys house for say 200,000 and rents it to you for 500 a week until all the 200,000 is paid off and what would have been the interest..say another 200,000.
    Muslim student loans work same way....Islamic bank buys 3 years education and rents to you at 20 a week until all 27,000 is paid back plus another amount equal to interest....simple

  • rate this

    Comment number 162.

    If you spell Muslim with a little "m" instead of a capital, you either have some respect issues or some ignorance of written English issues.

    The word Muslim is like Surrey, Matthew or Mr James -- a proper noun that is capitalised.

  • rate this

    Comment number 161.

    'No alternative'
    'Priced out'
    'Talent will be lost'
    All good points that apply however to every single individual that wishes to pursue a degree and can't afford to pay 9000 pounds pa. I really can't understand how is it different for muslim people but not for the rest of the population.

  • rate this

    Comment number 160.

    They'll try and twist anything to save some cash.

    Shame MP's don't.

  • rate this

    Comment number 159.

    I don't do religion but am agnostic. Which means, to me, I do the best I can in life and talk to a higher being with a thank you and help too, just in case it exists.

    What annoys me intensely about extreme/archaic versions of ANY religion, and their selective followers, is their ability to twist versions to suit their dogma in a democratic country, they would not benefit from if it were not?

  • rate this

    Comment number 158.

    2nd-A why is it that there are SOME people who call themselves Muslims but ignore the Prophet’s and the Holy Book’s teaching? Mainly because of lack of knowledge and understanding.


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