Canada has overtaken the United States to become the second most preferred study destination for Nigerians, a BusinessDay analysis of the latest enrolment data shows.
Data from the Higher Education Statistics Agency show that the number of Nigerians enrolled in the United Kingdom increased by 63.5 percent to 21,305 745 for the 2020/2021 academic year.
The number of Nigerians enrolled in Canada rose by 30.3 percent to 13,745, according to the Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada, while those in the US declined by 7.2 percent to 12,860, according to the Institute of International Education.
Operators in the international education space highlighted the factors behind the decline in enrolments in the US.
“Despite the recovery in securing visa appointments, the chances have become slimmer, making its application process really rigorous and difficult compared to other countries,” Dotun Adeleke, an official at Management Education and Training Limited, said.
An official at Obbah Consult, who wishes to be identified simply as Kolawole, said Canada’s immigration procedures were easier compared to the US.
“When you finish studying in Canada, you can legally work from between three to five years where you can transit into a citizen. But in the US, the pathway to citizenship is difficult,” He explained.
In February 2020, America’s former president, Donald Trump, added Nigeria to its immigration visa ban list in a move to address security concerns. Other countries on the list included Iran, Syria, Libya, Yemen, Somalia and North Korea.
Before the visa ban, there were also tightening rules such as raising visa application fees to resist student visas and preventing renewal of visas for regular visitors. But last year, the ban was lifted by President Joe Biden.
Nneka Achapu, founder at African Public Affairs Committee, said in a Quartz Africa article that although Biden’s move was a victory, it was still a long shot to unpick the immigration policy of its particular stance, with Nigeria given the several stringent bureaucratic measures and restrictions put in place by the trump Administration.
Apart from the visa restriction issues, there is also a liquidity challenge in Nigeria’s foreign exchange market caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, making tuition fees of US schools expensive.
According to a survey of tuition fees for international students from foreign education publications, Canada has the cheapest average fee with $22,500, followed by the UK with $ 31,380, and the US with $34,200.
“When the FX rate is going up, it means that the ability of people to afford it reduces. So, school fees are now becoming more expensive for people to afford,” Ayodele Akinwunmi, senior relationship manager, corporate banking group at FSDH Merchant Bank, said.
In 2020, the Central Bank of Nigeria devalued the naira twice from N306/$ to N361/$, and to N379/$, weakening the value of the naira against the dollar. Last year, the apex bank officially adopted the Nigerian Autonomous Foreign Exchange rate, which weakened the naira by 8.2 percent to N410.25/$.
Over the past two years, Canada and the UK have intensified efforts to attract more international talents by easing its immigration channels
For Canada, its Student Express programme for Nigerians aims to fast-track study permit processing to help expedite the application process and the Post-Graduation Work Permit. The work permit valid for up to three years, allows international graduates to work for any Canadian employer without needing a job offer.
While the UK’s Graduate route programme allows eligible students to work, or look for work, or stay for two years (three years if studying at PhD level) after they have completed a degree in the country.