BusinessDay

UK’s scholarships to Nigerians soar 529% in three years

…highest on record

The number of Nigerians granted sponsored study visas (scholarships) by the United Kingdom (UK) has increased by over 500 percent in three years, a new official immigration data is saying.

The data from the British government shows that the number of scholarships given to Nigerian students increased by 529.5 percent to 58,887 in the first quarter (Q1) of 2022 from 9,355 in the same period of 2020.

“For the other top five nationalities, Nigeria saw the largest percentage increase in sponsored study grants compared with the year ending March 2020, increasing by 49,532 (529 percent) to a record high of 58,887, making them the third largest nationality group in the last year,” the British government states on its website.

The information on its website also highlighted that Pakistani nationals saw a large increase of (277 percent), followed by India with (122 percent), United States (eight percent) and China (-1 percent).

Experts say, apart from Nigeria’s high intellectual capabilities, other reasons why the UK is scouting for Nigerians are cheap labour, large working population, high diaspora remittances and the withdrawal of the UK from the European Union.

The UK, just like other developed and future-looking countries like the United Arab Emirates, Australia, Canada and the US has become a Global Talent magnet, said Adewale Adetona, the co-founder at Menopays, a Nigerian financial technology company.

“And of course, the tier 4 student visa route with an option of 2years post-study visa, to attract international students to come study and also work in the UK post-graduation, to help them develop the UK economy,” Adetona added.

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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 reaffirmed 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The strategy commits to previously established goals for foreign enrolment growth which have been replaced by new immigration routes and work opportunities for foreign students.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.

According to Oludayo Sokunbi, chief executive officer at Japaconsults, the most attractive thing for international students now is the UK has a Post study work permit, which means that International students would no longer think of coming back home after schooling.

“An average Nigerian is more concerned about not coming back home than the academics itself. 90 percent of them are using academics as a way to ‘never return’ (JAPA) home or at least establish them overseas,” Sokunbi said.

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).

The demand or need to immigrate 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.