Interest in gaining qualifications overseas among Nigerian students is soaring, and is expected to increase, but affordability remains a key barrier, new research has suggested.
The Nigeria Market Sentiments and Study Motivations Report 2022 report said that elections in 2023, contributing to “the uncertainty on ground”, a continued rise in unemployment in Nigeria, the growth in interest in distance learning from professionals and employer demand in key edtech sectors will continue to push the desire for degrees from universities overseas.
Researchers surveyed over 4,000 respondents in the country – around half of whom were aged 18-25 – and 90% of whom indicated they are looking to study abroad.
Around 58% of respondents said the devaluation of the currency had impacted their study plans. Additionally among those respondents interested in the UK, 43% said they would seek scholarships from governments, universities or employers to fund their studies.
“Self-funding ranks among the lowest [sources of funding] (8.17%), indicating that most Nigerian students will require some form of support in their quest for UK education,” the report noted.
Four in 10 respondents said events about scholarships would be the most likely they would attend when seeking admission. Only one in 10 said that they would likely be self-funded students and not interested in scholarships.
The report recommended that “even with increasing level of poverty across the country, Nigeria remains a strong market for foreign universities”.
“UK universities that intend to lead the market in student intakes have to indicate their willingness to invest in their studies, either by providing full or partial scholarships or working with partners who can deliver such scholarships,” it reads.
They should also consider adding job prospects/ employability programs such as work placements, consultancy projects, internships, volunteering, bespoke career events for international students to “support students looking to secure graduate level jobs after studies”.
“Even with increasing level of poverty, Nigeria remains a strong market for foreign universities”
Additionally, more personalised communication – such as consistent communication through WhatsApp conversations or emails following official events – will “prove to be much more effective than generic emails at the initial stage of engagement”.
“A partnership with local universities or departments, where lecturers and career mentors also function as ambassadors is also recommended,” it continued.
Responding to the “wide interest” for loans to access international programs, the report also suggested that “universities can take the lead by making the students aware of institutions where they can access such loans quickly and efficiently, thereby improving and accelerating the admission process”.
“With the impact of Covid-19 clearly impacting income, inflation and the exchange rate — which has in turn affected cost of living and the value of the Naira, students will search for better opportunities — the choice of distance learning presents convenient and cheaper avenues for students to obtain their degrees in foreign universities, even as they seek to improve their lives and reposition themselves in the employment market,” it added.
Post-pandemic, the research found, 46.61% of respondents chose distance learning, followed by 40.57% preferring overseas and 12.82% in favour of hybrid as their preferred method of study.
“The UK/Nigeria study motivations report is the first indigenous report that looks deeply into the issues that influence people’s choices regarding the institution they intend to study,” Isime Esene, chief intelligence officer at RED | For Africa said.
Among the other findings was that the top preferred destination for Nigerian students was the UK, with 32.71% indicating it was the top choice.
The UK was followed by Canada (16.67%), United States (16.54%), Germany (10.60%) and Australia (7.96%). Other European countries such as Turkey, Hungary, Finland, Cyprus, Italy, France, Lithuania, Ireland, Poland, Estonia, Greece, Sweden, Netherlands, Norway as well as China, “also came into consideration”, it found.
Tosin Adebisi, senior international officer (Africa & The Middle East) at the University of Sussex noted that the study points to “many well known, as well uncommon trends in the way people seek international education”.
“We believe [the study will] further underscore our commitment to Africa, especially Nigeria which boasts of a considerable number of University of Sussex alumni,” Adebisi added.
In a statement, chair of British Universities’ International Liaison Association, Bobby Mehta, said the “report presents us an opportunity to respond effectively to the changing dynamics we are witnessing in the international education sector particularly as it relates to Africa in the post-Covid era”.
“It validates our efforts towards developing increased synergy with relevant stakeholders with a view to making the UK the leading study destination across the world,” he added.