BusinessDay

Nigeria sees the largest increase in UK scholarships

The number of Nigerian students granted sponsored-study visas to the United Kingdom (UK) has increased by 368 percent within two years to a record high of 36,783, an official data from the British government show.

“In the top five nationalities, Nigerian nationals (citizens) saw the largest relative increase in sponsored study grants compared increasing by 28,923 (+368%) to a record high of 36,783, making them the third-largest nationality group in 2021,” information from the UK’s immigration website shows.

In terms of nationalities granted visa to the UK, the data show from September 2019 – September 2021, other countries such as Pakistan, India, China, and the United States also recorded 225 percent, 197 percent, 13 percent, and 3 percent, respectively.

The data also add that two nations – India (33%) and Nigeria (31%) – accounted for the majority (64%) of sponsored study dependents.

Similarly, in terms of visas issued, 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.

The UK, a developed economy, operates an immigration system underpinned by the principle of visa sponsorship. The sponsor for immigration purposes is the educational institution where the student will study and the visa is issued for a particular course at the institution.

Earlier last year, the UK government issued a Graduate Route post-study work visa. The visa helps Bachelor and Masters Graduates to be able to live and work in the country for up to two years, while Ph.D. graduates can live and work up to three years.

“The UK has been a bit more lenient in accepting general applications from Nigeria because they have realised that Nigeria 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, says.

Oyelade states that the UK’s big gap in their talent leaves a lot of job vacancies that Nigerians can fill, “So, basically Nigeria is their preferred base when they are opening their borders.”

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.

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According to the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS), Nigeria’s inflation stood at 15.4 percent in November 2021, and unemployment was at a record high of 33.3 percent as of the fourth quarter of 2020.

Furthermore, Nigeria’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 in 2022, according to the World Bank.

Also, nearly half (45%) of Nigerian adults say they plan to move to another country within five years, far the highest among 12 nations surveyed across four continents, a 2018 Pew Research Centre survey showed.

Africa’s biggest economy could pay a huge economic price if it continues to lose talents to other developed nations, as labour, a critical factor of production, plays an integral part in growing and sustaining any economy.

Olugbenga Ogunbode, CEO, International Education Corporation Group, notes that Nigeria is the biggest loser here because we are losing our best brains to the UK/Europe.

“We need to keep our young and agile population rather than losing them to a new form of slavery,” he says.

Similarly, Kemi Ogunkoya, a leadership development strategist, states that Nigeria has a lot of mid- and high-skill people leaving, which affects how businesses operate in terms of the talents that they have and their stability.

“The skills leaving would drain businesses, which in the long run means those businesses will now start sourcing for talents outside of Nigeria that may be more expensive,” Ogunkoya further states.

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