Young Campaigner Award

Ahmed Alhindi – Our Grades, Not Visas (OGNV)

“A’s are worthless. So are the unconditional uni offers. It’s ultimately your visa that determines whether you go to uni or not.”

Our Grades Not Visas challenged the status quo and fought to make access to higher education in Scotland a right for such students, not a privilege.

The Campaign

Born in February 2022, Our Grades Not Visas is a movement with a mission to end the discrimination migrant students face in accessing higher education in Scotland. It all began when Ahmed Alhindi, a brilliant sixth year student, was denied the opportunity to study computer science at university despite receiving three unconditional offers.

Collaborating with the Maryhill Integration Network and JustRight Scotland, he embarked on a journey to create a brighter future for all aspiring students. Ahmed’s goal was to raise awareness, research the extent of the issue, and work with the Scottish Government to enact lasting change.

Thanks to their efforts, the group succeeded in raising public awareness, publishing research findings, and shaping legislation. But the fight is far from over, and they are still working to ensure that every student, regardless of their background or visa status, has an equal chance to pursue their academic dreams.

Law for Change logo

Sponsored by

Law for Change logo
awards

(From left) Pinar Aksu of MIN, Mariam Tuna of JRS & Ahmed Alhindi of OGNV (OGNV, Mar 2023)

I am absolutely thrilled to have been shortlisted! It’s truly incredible to see what our campaign has achieved in such a short amount of time. As a migrant sixth year student, I never thought that I would be able to create a movement that could make a real difference in the lives of hundreds of students like me. I’m incredibly humbled by the recognition from SMK and grateful for the support of everyone who has contributed to the success of our campaign.”

awards

(From left) Pinar Aksu of MIN, Mariam Tuna of JRS & Ahmed Alhindi of OGNV (OGNV, Mar 2023)

It’s truly incredible to see what our campaign has achieved in such a short amount of time. As a migrant sixth year student, I never thought that I would be able to create a movement that could make a real difference in the lives of hundreds of students like me.”

The Change

When they founded Our Grades Not Visas, they knew that mere band-aids wouldn’t fix the broken higher education system in Scotland.

What was needed was equivalent to reconstructive surgery, to ensure every student had an equal chance to pursue their academic aspirations. That’s why they conducted a comprehensive survey, receiving over 70 responses from affected students in Glasgow alone. They listened to their stories of being denied university admission to courses like medicine or engineering because of their visa status.

Working with local organisations, MSPs, and Councillors, they took the message to the Scottish Parliament and national conferences across the country. Their efforts paid off when JustRight Scotland successfully challenged the illegal Student Awards Agency Scotland (SAAS) rules in court, providing a platform to directly engage with the Scottish Government in shaping new education regulations.

But they’re not done yet, they are fighting to modify the SAAS rules permanently and ensure that no student faces discrimination based on their immigration status.

The Future

Our Grades Not Visas continue to raise awareness, leveraging the power of social media to amplify their message and reach new audiences, and seeking funding to support their advocacy.

Their goal stays the same. They will continue to advocate for meaningful change to create, and defend, equal access to higher education for migrant students and asylum seekers in Scotland.

With the support of their partners, allies, and community, they want to build on their momentum, sustain their impact, and achieve their vision of a system that is fair and inclusive for all.

Who else was involved?

Maryhill Integration Network

JustRight Scotland

Scottish Refugee Council

City of Sanctuary UK

University and College Union

Bob Dorris MSP

Paul Sweeney MSP

Riya Philip