Kiribati's Director of Education says 18 scholarship students who did not meet strict criteria set by the University of the South Pacific will still be allowed to stay in Fiji to study.
Metia Beiabure says the department thought that exceptions made in 2005 for the entry requirements of scholarship students would also apply this year.
He says it was an unfortunate misunderstanding between the USP and the Kiribati government.
Mr Beiabure says the students are allowed to stay in Suva to do foundation courses in order to be eligible for degree programmes.
"For the students they were not asked to return. They are still in Fiji now. And I think the question as to whether they return to Kiribati depends on their results in this first semester for the foundation courses they are doing at USP."
Metia Beiabure says government scholarships paid out per student is around 8,500 US dollars annually.