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Reasons for the huge rush for Nigeria, Africa’s growing student population

Statistics has shown that Nigerian students in particular and African students in general account for more than one in 10 international students schooling in several universities across the globe.

In Nigeria alone, fewer than 40 percent of university applicants are regularly admitted to Nigerian universities, leaving an estimated one million students without any university placement in the 158 citadels of higher learning currently approved by National universities commission (NUC).

Online platforms are tapping this growing interest in higher education. Unicaf University, an online higher education platform, enrolled 25,000 in January 2019, a 108 percent growth in four years.

eLearnAfrica announced a partnership with the Association of African Universities that would expand online learning opportunities for students enrolled in its 380 member institutions, potentially making educational opportunities available to 10 million African students.

The e-learning arm of the Pan African University was officially launched in December 2019, allowing millions of Africans to enrol in online courses and programmes.

Such statistics suggest that increased economic growth will likely translate into more African students who can afford a university education. Currently there is insufficient capacity, but there are opportunities for colleges and universities worldwide to increase their international student populations by enrolling African students, either in ‘traditional’ brick and mortar settings or through online and MOOC (massive open online course) enrolments.

It is the belief of industry watchers that Nigerian and indeed African students will increasingly enrol in online programmes. Stefan Trines, research editor for World Education News and Reviews in the report, “Educating the Masses: The rise of online education in Sub-Saharan Africa and South Asia”, opines that Africa is “the most dynamic e-learning market on the planet”.

A case in point is the National Open University of Nigeria, with more than 250,000 students, is looking to increase the number of MOOC courses available to students unable to enrol in Nigerian universities.

Tolu Odugbemi, former vice chancellor, University of Lagos opines that universities and other higher institutions as innovation hubs have major roles to play in using science and technology to drive development in in online learning.

According to him, “Developing economies, such as ours, can only fast-track and/or leap frog their growth through targeted research and development. A practical way to do this is to do what is generically referred to as reverse engineering. It is these institutions that must provide the roadmap to circumvent those roadblocks to indigenous technology enhancement necessary for driving innovation and development of the nation. The competition for African students

Reports show that an increasing number of African students, if not enrolled in online degree programmes, will opt to remain closer to home for tertiary education. South Africa is the preferred destination with nine of the top 10 sending countries located in Sub-Saharan Africa.

And it is likely that competition will increase for African students outside of Africa. Based on encouraging enrolments of African students in 2019, expect international deans and recruiters from Saudi Arabia, Ukraine and the United Arab Emirates to increase their recruitment outreach to African students.

Expect generous scholarship opportunities to increase enrolment of African students in China. Expect the Indian government to increase scholarships for African students. Expect Russia to increase recruitment and enrolment activities in Africa.

According to Irina Abramova, director of the Institute for African Studies of the Russian Academy of Sciences, Russia plans to double the number of foreigners studying at Russian universities by 2024. She wrote: “The number of African students studying in Russia may not only reach the level of the Cold War era, but surpass it.”

Some international deans will construct new strategic African recruitment plans that include both brick and mortar options and online learning. Some universities will offer comprehensive online programmes to African students. Some universities may open branch campuses in specific African countries. Some universities will partner with African schools to offer combined and dual degree programmes.

Entrepreneurial colleges and universities, willing and capable of recruiting in both traditional and technological ways, and willing to commit for the long haul, will reap the benefits of African recruitment in 2020 and beyond.


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