Pin It
Photography Tim Gouw

Are UK universities turning away Russian students?

The University of West London has been criticised for rejecting a Russian applicant because of ‘the recent events and situation in Ukraine’

It was 33-year-old Elena Ledneva’s dream to study a master’s course in hospitality at the University of West London (UWL). She applied last month, after going on an open day and meeting course tutors.

This week, Ledneva received an email from UWL rejecting her application. But this wasn’t because Ledvena didn’t have the grades – instead, they told her that they would “not be in a position to process the application further” due to “university policy in response to the recent events and situation in Ukraine.” (Ledneva is Russian).

George Giannakopoulos, a lecturer at the City University of London, drew attention to the matter by posting a screenshot of the email on Twitter. At present, it has been retweeted over 4,000 times. “Since when do UK universities issue blanket rejections to Russian candidates because of their nationality? This is a dangerous precedent!” he captioned the post.

Speaking to Express, Ledneva described the email as “unreasonable.”

“I have no influence on the people who decided to start this awful war and I’m not responsible for their actions,” she says. “Believe me, it is heartbreaking to see what your native country is doing in the Ukraine and not be able to change anything.”

Jack Remmington shared Giannakopoulos’ tweet, adding that he was also concerned about discrimination against Russians in the UK. “I teach a Russian boy who is 16 and has lived in London for over half of his life, and he’s been rejected from a sixth form explicitly because he’s Russian. His sister is doing her A Levels and is worried that unis might rescind her offers. Awful”, he wrote.

UWL have since backtracked, with a spokesperson saying to Dazed: “An email declining an application was sent in error to a prospective student and due to an internal miscommunication. Senior admissions staff have since reached out to this prospective student to convey our sincere apologies for any distress caused.”

“UWL’s admissions policies and procedures remain unchanged and do not include any restrictions on university admissions based on nationality. UWL is proud of its diverse staff and student community, and we are committed to quality of opportunity and social inclusion at all levels of the University”.