Nigeria has recorded a total of 43,200 sponsored study visas (scholarships) granted by the United Kingdom (UK) for full-year 2021, the highest when compared to 12,845 in 2020 and 8,384 in 2019, a new official immigration data has shown.
“In the other top five nationalities, Nigerian nationals saw the largest relative increase in sponsored study grants compared with 2019, increasing by 34,816 (+415 percent) to a record high of 43,200, making them the third-largest nationality group last year,” the British government stated on its website.
The data also highlighted that on the global scene, a total of 432,279 sponsored study visas were granted in 2021 from 284,721 in 2019. A breakdown of the total data shows that China was the highest with 119,334, followed by India (98,747), Nigeria (43,200), Pakistan (17,533) and the United States (15,623).
On what contributed to the surge for Nigeria, Jennifer Oyelade, the director of Transquisite Consulting, a UK and Nigerian recruitment and training Consultancy said the UK is beginning to see the increase in the way Nigerians are adding to its Gross Domestic Product (GDP) in terms of education.
“Their schools are getting better funding due to the increase in good exams results mostly from Nigerian students. That is why the students are able to come to the UK to add to the GDP from the educational background,” Oyelade further said.
Olugbenga Ogunbode, the chief executive officer at International Education Corporation Group noted that even though Nigeria comes third, things become more telling when you look at the percentage of Indians and Chinese students leaving home compared to their respective populations of over one billion people.
The UK, one of the most advanced economies in the world and top place to study in, 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.
In 2019, the UK updated its International Education Strategy. 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.
The strategy commits to previously established goals for foreign enrolment growth which have been replaced by new immigration routes and work opportunities for foreign students. It intends to create clearer pathways to immigration
Some of the ways in which this growth is to be achieved is the Graduate route which was launched in July 2021. The route will allow eligible students to stay in the UK to work, or look for work, for two years (three years if studying at PhD level) after they have completed a degree in the UK.
Gbolabo Akintoye, a Nigerian student currently studying in the UK said, “UK education is widely recognized by employers worldwide because of the standard and quality of their education and offers a two-year post-study stay.”
He added, “Also, my qualifications didn’t need to go through World Education Services evaluation, unlike the US which is currently hostile to international students.”
Recently, a spokesperson at Russell Group, a self-selected association of 24 public research universities in the UK noted in an article published by Erudera, a global education search platform that the strong growth in applicants from India and Nigeria, prioritized in the UK’s International Education Strategy show efforts to attract students from new countries are beginning to pay dividends
According to recent data from the Higher Education Statistics Agency, the number of Nigerian students studying in UK universities increased year on year by 63.5 percent to 21,305 in the 2020/2021 academic year.
Apart from Nigeria’s high intellectual capabilities, other reasons why the UK is scouting for Nigerians are cheap Labor, large working population, high diaspora remittances and the withdrawal of the UK from the European Union (EU), experts say.
And the demand for Nigerians is not too hard to diagnose as high poverty, unemployment, poor human capital development, insecurity and poor education are some of the many reasons its young population are bailing out of the country to greener pastures.
A recent survey by the World Bank, 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).
Ogunbode warned that brain drain is real and it appears the governments do not appreciate this yet.
“The western world has an aging population and it would require an energetic and youthful group to help power her economy and surprise, surprise; Nigeria and Africa have a majority of youthful population. This is exactly what we are seeing and there is much more to come,” he said.