IT is every parent’s worst nightmare.

When promising student Yunzhao Fan, began struggling with his degree, he kept his problems secret from his family.

Months later, after he had stopped going to lectures at the University of Southampton and had been thrown off his course, he took the devastating decision to kill himself.

Now his parents have criticised the University of Southampton for not telling them that their son had been dismissed from his maths degree.

Southampton Coroners’ Court was told that the 19- year-old, from Lawn Road, Portswood, had not gone to his classes for a “significant period” and had “little social life”.

On November 16, last year his father, Yulei Fan, returned home from work to find his son slumped on the sofa.

The straight-A student, who got an A* in A level maths at Peter Symonds College in Winchester, had left a single sheet of paper by his side with the message: “Taking a shortcut.”

Desperate attempts were made to save Mr Fan by his father and paramedics but he died later in hospital.

The inquest heard that Mr Fan, who had moved to Southampton from China when he started secondary school, had been “struggling” with his maths degreeat the university from when he started it the year before.

Speaking after the hearing, Mr Fan’s parents said that they had discovered after his death that his son had received a letter dismissing him from university just days before he killed himself.

Describing Mr Fan as a “shy”

and “intelligent” young man, they have criticised the university because they had no idea their son had stopped going to his lectures.

The former pupil of St George Catholic College in Southampton, who had dreamed of becoming a computer programmer, had pretended to go to classes so his father, who he was living with at the time, would not realise how much he was struggling.

When he spoke to his mother, Lucy Lyddon, 44, from Winchester, on the phone, he also told her about exams and university work so she would believe he was still completing his studies.

After his death, his parents found a note in their son’s diary saying he had been set work there was “no way” he could complete, and the lecturers were not helping him.

Mrs Lyddon said: “Suddenly at 18 you’re an adult – it can’t be this sudden jump.

“University is a huge jump.

“He was very intelligent, he’d probably just had enough of studying maths.

“Why don’t the university talk to parents? Talk to parents – don’t push the student.”

Recording a verdict that Mr Fan had committed suicide coroner Keith Wiseman said Mr Fan’s family had no way of knowing his plans.

He said: “This is a very sad event for the family. I presume that no one had any idea – he obviously didn’t talk about it.

“They had no reason to think anything like this would happen at all.

“Clearly it’s possibly that he was worried about his situation at university.”


The University’s Student Union say that more publicity is needed about support services that are available to students.

Chloe Green, who is the union’s representative for Welfare and Communities, said: “I think there are so many different approaches for supporting students that often the right one isn’t employed.

“There’s plenty on offer for students and I’m so sad to know that some students don’t know this support is there; more publicity maybe required, including referral from personal tutors.

“I think parent-involvement depends on the student.

“You are an adult and I think some students wouldn't want their parents to know what was happening.

“But I think perhaps they should be contacted as a last resort – parents would want to get involved when it is such a serious situation as what happened to Yunzhao.”

Tessa Harrison, registrar of the University of Southampton, said: “We were deeply saddened to hear about Yunzhao’s death and our thoughts and condolences are with his family and friends.

“We take the well-being of all our students extremely seriously and encourage any student who is experiencing personal problems, whether long-standing or resulting from a temporary crisis, to contact our specialist student support services.”