The new destinations for Nigerian students

“Nigerians are traveling further and wider in search of new experiences and better education”

Anthony Ajibosin, CEO of 3AG education agency in Nigeria, writes about why more Nigerians are opting to study abroad and how their destinations of choice are changing.

Nigerians place a high value on education, especially in the last three decades. Studying and gaining a degree is seen as a matter of pride within the family and community. However, the 129 universities in Nigeria cannot cater for the demand of the higher education needs of the more than 15 million people of tertiary school age (or can they?). There has been increase in demand for foreign education, which initially could be attributed to the constant interruption of academic sessions within the Nigeria higher education sector as a result of industrial actions.

But wait a minute – we have about 50 private universities in Nigeria that are not affected by strikes, so why still study abroad? To get a better job? The growing number of working class families, the middle class and the traditional saying ‘the best legacy you can give to a child is education’ has seen to the increase in student mobility: the search for better education, internationally recognised degrees and the ability to become a global player.

“The best legacy you can give to a child is education”

The United Kingdom has always been the destination of choice; this can be linked to historical ties between Nigeria and the UK, distance (6 hours direct flight), world recognition of UK qualifications and, of course, having English as the language of instruction. According to a UNESCO report, over 17,000 Nigerians studied in the UK in 2012, while 6,807 studied in the US, Canada had 2,031 Nigerians and Australia had 398.

Though the UK is still the most popular destination for Nigerians, we are witnessing an increase in the US, Canada and Australia as study destinations. This shift could be attributed to the immigration laws of these countries. The UK as a study destination started experiencing a decline after the withdrawal of the automatic post study work visa. The opportunity for work experience and ability to stay back for a bit in the host countries is enticing to middle class families, according to the UNESCO 2012 report on the Global Flow of Tertiary Level Students: ‘As demand for education rises, mobile students explore new destinations’. So Nigerians are traveling further and wider in search of new experiences and better education.