Afghan students offered scholarships by the UK government to study here from next month have been told they will not now be able to take up their places.
Chevening Scholarships enable promising students around the world to pursue a masters degree in the UK.
But the Foreign Office said the situation in Afghanistan meant the British Embassy there would not finish preparations in time for this year.
The decision has been criticised by two former Conservative cabinet ministers.
One of the scholarship students, Naimatullah Zafary, told the BBC that students had been crying and some had panic attacks when they met with UK embassy staff to discuss the deferral of their places.
“I cannot sleep,” he said. “When we really need it, you are taking it away.”
Chevening Scholarships, which are funded by the Foreign Office, are prestigious and highly competitive.
But Afghan students who have been awarded places for this coming academic year have been told the embassy in Kabul, Afghanistan’s capital city, will not be able to complete the paperwork.
According to Mr Zafary, there are 35 Afghans affected and just under half are women.
It comes as the Taliban continues to seize territory in the country following the withdrawal of US and other foreign troops after 20 years of military operations.
Deeply disappointing to hear – on top of everything – that Afghans who received Scholarships from the UK government to study in the UK this year have now been told they will not be granted visas due to “administration issues”. Surely someone can sort this out? pic.twitter.com/5Z5dgqLKJC
— Rory Stewart (@RoryStewartUK) August 14, 2021