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Nigeria’s continued forex woes curb UK study, agencies report

While the weaker British pound might make studying in the UK more attractive to some international students, the country’s third most fruitful source market is still struggling with punishing exchange rates, that have plagued the market for a number of months.

Current regulations require students to pay a full year’s tuition and show proof of living expenses for three months before they can receive a visa to study in the UK. Photo: Lindsay Mgbor/Department for International Development

The Central Bank of Nigeria raised the weekly limit of forex banks can sell to Bureaux De Change from $30,000 to $50,000

Reports from Nigeria say interest in studying higher education overseas has dropped by 30-50% for most education agencies compared to this time last year as the naira stubbornly stays at .002 to the dollar.

“Our major problem is the exchange rate for pounds and dollars,” Rose Omonubi, president of the Association of UK Certified Agents in Nigeria told The PIE News. “The exchange rate is affecting some parents’ decision especially at A level foundation, because local schools say ‘stay, and do the foundation here’.”

“Our major problem is the exchange rate for pounds and dollars”

Omonubi says business is down by 30% for UK boarding school students and 15% in interest for higher education. O.O. Banjo, head of counselling at Bridge House Counselling Ltd. in Lagos, said interest is 50% less for higher education. “It’s a lot slower than last year,” she told The PIE News.

The UK is traditionally a popular destination because of its proximity to Nigeria and many parents, alumni of UK universities themselves, are familiar with the country’s higher education system.

However, Banjo said: “This year the number of students going to other countries have increased because visa regulations are easier and more amenable than those of the UK.”

Current regulations requiring students to pay a full year’s tuition and show proof of living expenses for three months before they can receive a visa to study in the UK are made more complicated with the country’s forex shortages, said Banjo.

“Parents prefer to transfer the full tuition money all at once but they can’t do that anymore,” she noted. Since oil price began to plummet early this year, students have been forced to transfer tuition fees in parts, depending on how much foreign exchange is available on the day.

In a bid to drive down the price of the dollar and to make foreign currency available to pay tuition fee and international travel costs, last week, the Central Bank of Nigeria raised the weekly limit of forex banks can sell to Bureaux De Change from $30,000 to $50,000.

“We’re hopeful the government will review forex regulations and hopefully give education some concessions,” said Banjo.

Taking advantage of the devalued pound, some UK universities have given students the option of paying all three years’ tuition up front.

When Banjo offers this discount, “the parents look at me like I’m insane,” she said. “No parents have taken that option because they can’t afford it.”

“Parents prefer to transfer the full tuition money all at once but they can’t do that anymore”

Omonubi also has clients who have brought their children home from UK boarding schools to enrol at schools in Nigeria after being unable to pay tuition fees.

Canada, where tuition fees are more affordable and residency pathways are clearer, and the US, where scholarships are more common, are becoming more popular for Nigerian students.

“Canada has opened up for higher education because it’s very immigration friendly,” said Omonubi. “Canada is the most popular for undergraduate right now.”

For other students, the only options available are closer to home. “Many of them are looking at going to West African universities like Ghana but a higher number prefer private university in Nigeria,” said Banjo.

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