By Dayo Adesulu
The number of Nigerians who go abroad for studies is on the rise. The trend is visible at both undergraduate and postgraduate levels and the destinations are varied and diverse. United Kingdom, United States of America and Canada are the most popular choices. However, students are also opting for Central and Eastern Europe where they believe tuition fees and living costs are low.
Besides, with the proliferation of United States and United Kingdom university branch campuses in the Middle East, Asia, Ghana and South African, Nigerian students see it as best alternatives. Annually, Ghana alone, gets N160 billion of Nigerian students’ funds, while Nigerians spend over N80 billion on education in the United Kingdom.
For example, in 2014, about 75,000 Nigerians were said to be studying in Ghana, paying about US$1 billion annually as tuition fees and upkeep, as against the annual budget of US$751 million for all federal universities. The amount was about 70 per cent of the total allocation in 2008 to all federal universities.
In 2011, there were 17,585 Nigerians studying in UK universities, about 1,000 more than the 16,680 registered in the 2009/10 academic session, making Nigeria’s student population the third largest from non-European Union countries, trailing 39,090 recorded for India and 67,325 for China, according to statistics provided by UK Council for International Student Affairs.
According to statistics from the British Council, since 2002, the number of Nigerians being educated in the UK increased by over 75 per cent. That number was generated in 2006 and so it can be expected that the percentage is higher given the continued dilapidation of the Nigerian education system. In a 2007-2008 list of countries sending students to the U.K, Nigeria ranked 8th.
The Director of the Federal Scholarship Board (FSB), Mrs. Hindatu Abdullahi once said in 2012 that the Federal Government spent more than N900 million to sponsor 150 students abroad last year; nearly 10 per cent of the 14.14bn allocated to Nigerian universities.
Average tuition fees of some selected countries (excluding living expenses) for undergraduates are: USA $8,000; UK 19,000 pounds; Singapore $4,000; Malta $20,000; Malaysia $1,000; Ireland 6,000 Euro. When converted to Naira, Malaysia is N130,000; UK N1.4m; US N1.04m; Malta N2.6m,etc.
In 2010, Nigerian students spent to the tune of N246 billion on UK education sector. Just as Nigerian students in 2012, spent over N1.5 trillion on students studying abroad, the Exam Ethics International, a non-governmental organisation said.
According to the U.S. Embassy Educational Advising Center (2011), Nigeria sends more students to the United States than any other country in sub-Saharan Africa. Nigeria currently has over 6,500 students studying at over 733 institutions in all 50 states of the United States and the District of Columbia.
Only ten days ago, the governor of Rivers State, Nyesom Wike said he had within last four months paid about N1.4 billion on Rivers students studying at foreign universities on government scholarships. A member of the British Parliament, Mr. Iain Stewart, three years ago predicted that there will be nearly 30,000 Nigerian students in the UK by 2015, and this accounts for seven per cent of the total UK university population.
Nigerian students are extremely coveted by the English educational system because they not only bring in billions, but the students apparently do very well, meaning very good business for the U.K. which sells its educational system not just in Nigeria, but across the world.
Despite the huge cost of schooling abroad, more Nigerians are joining the quest to acquire foreign education with reasons ranging from a higher standard of education, to job opportunities, and a higher standard of living. The increase in the number of students travelling abroad had initially been attributed to the parlous state of Nigerian universities.
Obviously, there is some truth in this, considering the frequency of industrial actions, paucity of funds, dilapidated state of infrastructure and the lack of manpower in the public universities. The rapid growth in the number of private universities in Nigeria, which offer a relative measure of stability, should have stemmed the tide in the number of those going overseas to study.
This has not happened, clearly indicating the presence of a broader set of drivers that are contributing to sustaining interest in foreign education. What are the major reasons for this capital flight on students and best brains as they are likely to settle abroad after graduation.
For many stakeholders, the development could be attributed the to the decay in the country’s educational sector and the incessant strikes which had disrupted schools’ calendar. Lack of admission space: Every year about 1.5 million school leavers sit for compulsory entrance examinations into 150 public and private universities whose approved carrying capacity is 600,000 students. Source: World University News.
Personal motivation is also a key consideration. For some, it is a means to enhance their career prospects at home; for others, a route to starting a new life abroad. In the first scenario, it does appear that the companies who offer top paying jobs in Nigeria have a preference for holders of foreign degrees. Indeed, such companies regularly attend job fairs in Europe and North America, hunting for Nigerians who studied abroad, to come and work in Nigeria.
This trend may well continue as more international firms are seeking investment opportunities in emerging economies such as Nigeria, as growth in the advanced economies remain slow. This can only motivate more individuals to seek that extra edge which will give them a fighting chance for the best jobs.
The UK post study work permit was an attraction for many international students. The law has now been amended by the UK government but that has not caused a substantial reduction in the number of Nigerian students travelling to the UK for higher education, though it appears to have had a more significant impact in India.
Canada and Australia are recent examples of countries that are now using such post study work permits to promote their countries as study destinations, and there already is growing interest in those destinations. Isaac Oghenekaro, who recently embarked on his second degree at the University of Exeter said: “The primary motivation for going abroad for my second degree, was to get more specialist knowledge in my field of study.
With London being one of the top financial centres in the world, it offers me a unique opportunity to learn more about finance in a very practical manner.” Jessica Abdukareem who had her three degrees abroad said that the prior motivation was because her parents wanted her to do so. However, she realised as her educational career progressed that: “Classes are much smaller, Very focused on real world application and networking, and education here is much more expensive.”
Citing better teaching method as her reason for wanting to study in the UK, Stella Effiong said: “I want to further my education in the UK because their schools are well funded, they have better facilities and their teaching method is superior to what we have in Nigeria. Schools in Nigeria can be at par with UK schools if only they are well funded and adequately equipped.”
Steve Ndubueze isn’t satisfied with the standard of education in Nigeria and prefers to study in the UK for better understanding of her course. of study so as to increase her chances of becoming successful in life.
For Morenike Adekuroye, schooling abroad would open a new vista for her as she would be more informed about other climes and culture. “Though there are some good schools in Nigeria, the UK system is well structured with conducive learning environment and this will enable me gain better knowledge of the course and also get to know about other climes and cultures.”