There has been a significant increase in the number of people seeking to migrate to the UK from Nigeria in the past few years. Last year marked a pleasant turnaround for many Nigerians wishing to study in the UK as the British government issued a record number of study visas to applicants from across the world.
In 2021 ( for the year ending in September), 428,428 sponsored study visas were awarded to both international students and their dependents. Compared with the past two years, this implies:
- 143% (252,327) more than the year ending September 2020
- 55% (152,077) more than the year ending September 2019
- It is also a 29% rise compared to 10 years ago, in June 2010, when there were 307,744 issued study visas
Nigerian Students Record an All-time High
Among the biggest beneficiaries of this spike in issued UK are Nigerian students, as the numbers are particularly high compared to 2019. As stated in the end-of-year report, Nigerian nationals were awarded a total of 36,783 visas, a 368% increase or 28,923 more visas from the year 2019. Only two countries got more visas than Nigeria.
At the end of the year in 2019 and 2020, Nigerians only received 7,860 and 8,229 sponsored study visas, respectively. Dependants are also huge beneficiaries of the rise in UK Student visas. 10% of the 36,783 visas were issued to dependents.
This development presents hope to UK educators who have in the past few years lost hold in the Nigerian market to countries like the United States, Canada, Ghana, and South Africa in the past 10 years. Total enrolments of Nigerian students in UK universities fell to 10,540 in 2017-18 from 18,020 in 2013-14, according to a 2021 Carnegie Empowerment for Peace report.
According to the report, most Nigerian students consider ease of visa application and affordability when deciding on where to study. The UK may be losing out to countries with a more welcoming environment or because UK school tuition fees were fast becoming unaffordable for Nigerian middle-class families.
The decline, however, also relates to Nigeria’s GDP growth and the recession from 2014 to 2016. Nevertheless, the recent spike shows that more and more Nigerian students may choose to study in the UK in the coming years.
Aside from Nigeria, other countries with major increases in visa approvals include the United States, Pakistan, China, and India. Chinese students were issued more than 135,450 visas, and for India, the numbers went from 30,490 in 2019 to 90,970.
Pakistan nationals recorded a 270% increase from 4,015 visas in 2020 to 14,845 in 2021. For the United States, the numbers went from 8,638 in 2020 to 15,330 in 2021.
Interestingly, the number of visas to fellow EU countries saw a significant decrease despite the massive increase for non-EU countries. The UK government granted a total of 428,428 visas in 2021and EU/EEA students received just about 9%. This comes after Brexit as, before 2021, EU nationals didn’t need visas to enter the UK.
More Opportunities with the New Graduate Visa Route
For Nigerian students, one of the most important factors in deciding where to study abroad is the availability of post-graduation employment. As a result, the UK government’s recent introduction of a Graduate Visa in July 2021 may contribute to the increase in enrolments from Nigeria.
With a Graduate Visa, international students can stay in the UK for at least 2 years after finishing their bachelor’s or master’s degree programme. Doctoral graduates can stay in the UK for an extra year (3 years). This gives them time to work or look for a job.
The Graduate Visa is a non-renewable visa. However, if a person gets a job and wishes to remain in the UK, they can apply for and obtain UK work visas. Notably, they can switch to a Skilled Worker visa that lasts for up to 5 years before renewal. They are also eligible to apply for Indefinite Leave to Remain (ILR) in the UK. After obtaining ILR, they can stay in the UK permanently and apply for British citizenship after 12 months on ILR.