Nigerians look beyond “Big Five” study destinations for affordable ed

According to figures from Campus France’s Chiffres Cles 2021 report, Nigeria saw 76,338 students head abroad to study in 2018, a drop of 11% which the report attributed to the drop in oil prices, the depreciation of the local currency and the lack of international purchasing power among the Nigerian middle class.

The 2020 edition of the report did suggest that this had led to some reconsideration of study destinations. Between 2012 and 2017, the UK saw at 27% drop in international students from Nigeria. However, in the same year “just under one in four mobile Nigerian students chose another country of Sub-Saharan Africa as their study destination”, including Ghana and Benin.

“We have Canada really emerging strongly [as well as] Malaysia and South Africa. I also think China is one country we should all watch out for because we’ve seen an increase in the number of students headed to China in the last two years based on lots of scholarships being available for them,” explained Folashade Adebayo, senior education adviser at the US Embassy Abuja, Nigeria, in a recent PIE Live webinar.

“We’ve seen an increase in the number of students headed to China in the last two years”

“[In the US] we’ve seen an increase in students and parents interested in historically black colleges. A lot of people are really looking at affordability so HBCU schools are coming into the limelight. And a lot of students are pursuing that option just because of scholarship opportunities.”

Other stakeholders are starting to take a tech-based approach. The MyStudyPath platform, for example, has been launched by Imperial Education Services to help students find study abroad opportunities and connect with institutions online within their budget.

“There’s something in our company we call the three Cs,” explained Lanre Ogundipe, and education consultant at IES.

“The three Cs are basically the three major considerations that Nigerian students consider before they make a journey abroad: the cost of the education, the course of study and the country.

“Sometimes we get enquiries from students who want to study in the UK, and we ask them what’s their budget and they tell you $2,000,” he continued.

“So you have let them understand that I’m sorry but you can’t study in the US or the UK with $2,000. However, there’s an opportunity for you to study in Lithuania or Poland.”

Yet while there may have been some reluctance in the past to stray from the traditional study destinations, Laveen Melwani, senior recruitment manager and Africa education expert at the EU Business School, has also seen growing acceptance of new destinations – including Spain, Germany and Switzerland – and predicted it will continue.

“We see a phenomenal growth of students looking outside the traditional spaces for education as well because of the opportunities that are there in these places in terms of careers and cultural exchange programs,” he added.

On the flip side, others argue that the pent up demand for higher education in Nigeria also presents an opportunity to build up capacity in-country through private institutions and TNE programs.

“What we are seeing in Africa is that private education has a lot of opportunities. There is a very high demand for higher education,” said Laura Kakon, chief growth and strategy officer at the pan-African Honoris United Universities.

“There is a growing need to partner the public sector and private sector in order to increase access to quality education across the continent.”

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