BusinessDay

Nigerian students studying in UK surge by 64% in one year

…records second-largest increase after Pakistan

Within a period of one year, the number of Nigerian students studying in the United Kingdom (UK) universities increased year-on-year by 63.5 percent to 21,305 in the 2020/2021 academic year, a new official data from the Higher Education Statistics Agency shows.

An analysis of the UK-based agency’s enrollment data shows that from the top 10 list, Pakistan recorded the largest percentage increase with 65.7percent followed by Nigeria with 63.5 percent, India (52.4 percent) Saudi Arabia (3.6 percent), Hong Kong (1.7 percent) and China (1.4 percent).

While countries like Malaysia, the United States of America, Singapore and Canada recorded a decline of -14.8 percent, -7.2 percent, -3.5 percent and -0.2 percent respectively.

Countries with the most students studying in the UK
The growing Nigerian interest in studying in the developed economy can be attributed to the easing of its immigration channels

Additionally, the increase also moved Nigeria’s ranking by three places to third position, making it the only African country on the list.

Some human resource professionals noted that the growing Nigerian interest in studying in the developed economy can be attributed to the easing of its immigration channels so as to attract more labour talents.

“The UK has been a bit more lenient in accepting general applications from Nigeria because they have realized that it has the intellectual capacity that they want and their labour is cheap,” Jennifer Oyelade, director of Transquisite Consulting, a UK and Nigerian registered Recruitment and Training Consultancy said.

BusinessDay had earlier reported that the number of Nigerian students granted sponsored study visas to the UK has increased by 368 percent within a period of two years to a record high of 36,783.

Similarly, in terms of visas issued to the UK, Nigeria recorded a rise of 234.7 percent to 18,580 in the first nine months of 2021 from 5,551 in the same period of 2019.

Last year, the UK government updated its International Education Strategy, which was originally launched in 2019. The update reaffirms the government’s goals of increasing the value of its education exports to £35 billion ($48 billion) and to hosting at least 600,000 international students per year by 2030.

And it seems that the minimum 600,000 international students target has been achieved as there are currently 605,130 international students pursuing their degrees in the UK.

Some of the strategies in which these targets would be achieved are post-study work rights of two years for all international students and three years for PhD students (aka the “Graduate” route) will take effect this summer, a student immigration route to make it easier for international students to apply to UK education institutions, more funding for outbound mobility etc.

These incentives might be good for the UK economy but for Africa’s biggest economy which is yet to untapped its large labour resource, it might suffer the consequence of brain drain.

“Right now, businesses are losing talents that should help them improve,” said Funbi Matthew, a business management and human resource professional. “The government needs to start seeing the impact of this on businesses, and businesses need to know how to manage talents by knowing the factors that impact their talents from leaving.”

Higher education has always been one of the principal conduits of permanent emigration. But Nigeria’s current realities such as high inflation, unemployment and fragile economic growth have now made it a major reason why its citizens emigrate to other countries for greener pastures.

Read also: 90 percent of our students get jobs by graduation – Dean, LBS

According to the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS), the country’s inflation stands at 15.60 percent in January 2022 and unemployment is at a record high of 33.3 percent as of the fourth quarter of 2020.

Furthermore, the country’s surging inflation rate has increased the number of poor people to 90.1 million and that number is expected to increase by 11 million by 2022, the World Bank states.

A recent survey by the v shows that 50 percent of Nigerian youths want to leave the country. The country placed third in West Africa among the nations polled, trailing only Liberia (70 percent) and Sierra Leone (60 percent).

Damilola Adewale, a Lagos-based economic analyst said the government needs to support the private sector more by enhancing their job-creating capacity and also implementing structural reforms to enhance the quality of well-being of the citizens.

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