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Nigerians search for alternative destinations over UK visa restrictions & affordability

Nigerian students seeking international education opportunities are moving away from their traditional top choice destination of the UK, following the ban on dependant visas for families of international students.
December 6 2023
5 Min Read

Nigerian students seeking international education opportunities are moving away from their traditional top choice destination of the UK, following the ban on dependant visas for families of international students.

The students are seeking alternative destinations in Europe and Asia, where restrictions are less stringent, and where fees are more affordable amid depreciating value of their local currency, the Naira.

Data from various platforms over the past 12 months shows that the European destinations include Italy, Finland and Austria. Even higher numbers are seeking study opportunities in Australia and New Zealand.

A noticeable fall in interest in study programs offered by UK universities and colleges has also been noted in various search platforms, and in some cases a reduction of as much as 40% enquiries has been recorded.

“Interest from prospective students in Nigeria has fallen the most in the UK – down 40.2%, and in Norway down 40.6% likely due to limitations on dependant visas in the former and the introduction of international student fees in the latter,” says Cara Skikne, senior editor at European study abroad company Studyportals.

Nigerians are also opting to study in Canada instead where a 9.1% increase in interest has been noticed and in Australia where a jump of 1.4% has been recorded in the past 12 months, she tells The PIE News.

“In Europe, Austria, Italy and Finland are becoming more popular destinations over the November 2022-October 2023 period,” she adds.

As many as 84% of the Nigerians looking to study abroad were interested in masters degree programs, 11.3% were after bachelor’s, and 2.9% were seeking to undertake PhDs programs, while about 2% of them were after bridging and short courses.

Nigerian student numbers in Australia have more than doubled over the past decade, says Monica Albertyn business development manager at NCC Education Limited.

“Visa restrictions could very well be the reason for students to turn to countries like Australia and New Zealand. The new law in the UK on student dependant visas will definitely cause a rise in student numbers in these two countries,” she tells The PIE News.

“Nigerian students have traditionally been interested in Canada, the UK, the US and Germany. The depreciation of the Naira will make Nigerian students think more carefully about studying abroad, and consider more cost effective destinations,” she adds.

“The depreciation of the Naira will make Nigerian students think more carefully about studying abroad”

Nevertheless, with some 44,195 students from Nigeria studying in the UK across all levels of study in the 2021-22 academic year, a 107% increase on the previous year. There is no doubt however that the country will remain a choice destination, she notes.

“UK and Canada are currently drawing a lot of Nigerian students and this is likely to remain the case for the next few years, ” she explains, adding that a majority of the students were after undergraduate degrees.

“At NCC Education we see a lot of interest from students in undergraduate programs with the possibility of progressing to other countries to complete their studies or do postgraduate program. This is why programs from an awarding body like NCC Education are becoming increasingly popular with students in Nigeria,” Albertyn notes.

Interestingly, some non-traditional destinations including some in Africa are also beginning to attract education hungry Nigerians, depending on their field of study, future career interest and prospects of securing employment after graduating.

According to another NCC Education official Marcelle Du Rand, one such destination is the Indian Ocean island of Mauritius, where a lot of students from Nigeria are going for hospitality internships and training.

“It’s an interesting development,” says Du Rand. “Mauritius is losing its traditional labour force as they become more educated – and are filling the gap with a good mix of work experience opportunities plus training for students like Nigerians who are looking for opportunities outside their country,” the NCC business development manager for Africa & Central Asia, adds.

Photo: pexels

The country located off the coast of East Africa has some of the highest development indices in Africa, and has a thriving service industry largely driven by tourism.

One in four international students indicated that they would be less likely to consider the UK as a study destination following the ban on postgraduate taught students bringing dependants, announced earlier this year by the UK government, according to a QS of survey of 5,000 respondents done in March 2023.

A further 22% of the respondents also said that they saw the proposed policy change as ‘discriminatory’,  in measures that could cost the UK economy £10 billion annually. This, the survey further established, would be to the advantage of competitor destinations, including the US and Australia.

It is in this category that the Nigerians fall as indicated by nearly 18,000 Canadian study permits were issued to Nigerians in the first six months of 2023, more than for any country apart from India, placing the country as Canada’s fastest growing international student source.

This was from more than 43,000 study permit applications processed during the six months’ period, and the figures are likely to make the Nigerians Canada’s second largest cohort of inbound students this year.

This was also 44% more study permits issuance compared to the whole of 2022, according to the country’s largest student placement company Applyboard. The increase was also more than more than double the recorded approval rates in 2020 latest data by the company showed.

“Between 2017 and 2019, the Canadian government also processed more student visa applications from Nigeria than any other country apart from India and China. But a study permit approval rate below 20% meant that only a small proportion of those students were able to realise their dream of studying in Canada,” says Applyboard.

On the other hand, the number of Nigerians studying in the US rose by 22.2%, according to Open Doors data. It showed that enrolment from the West African country rose to 17,640 in the 2022/23 academic year, up from 14,438 the previous year.

The report also revealed that Nigeria was the only African country among the top 10 countries with the highest number of students in America, while China (289,526), India (268,928), South Korea (43,847), Canada (27,876) and Vietnam (21,900) are the top five countries.

Nigeria’s Businessday quoted Matthew Mechan, Australia deputy high commissioner to the country, saying that around 10,000 Nigerian students were admitted to Australian universities between 2015 and 2019, up from around 400 in 2014, indicating that the country was an emerging destination for the Nigerians.

Despite this good news, Nigerian students abroad have been struggling to afford tuition fees after the sudden devaluation of the naira in the middle this year. Those hoping to start courses overseas this autumn have been affected as “the money they have saved for deposits and to prove funds for visa purposes has almost halved in value”.

This followed the weakening of the currency by 40% in 2023 July hitting foreign study particularly hard, The PIE News reported.

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