Every year about 1.5 million Nigerian school leavers sit for compulsory entrance exam into 150 public and private universities in the country. But higher institutions can only accept about 600,000 students. Add that to the poor perception about Nigerian education system, then it’s no surprise that abroad is the destination for many Nigerian students seeking quality higher education.
So where do most of these Nigerian students go to study?
In a recent study (2012), UNESCO revealed statistics of countries around the world that attract the most Nigerian students. It referred to Nigerian students that are enrolled in a part-time, full-time and distance learning undergraduate and postgraduate programme abroad.
Below are the top 10 countries for Nigerian students to study abroad according to UNESCO research in ascending order.
- Russian Federation
With the Bilateral Education Agreement between Nigeria and Russia, through the Federal Ministry of Education, the number of Nigerian students studying in Russia is gradually increasing over the past few years. UNESCO placed the figure at 736 Nigerian students studying in Russia in 2012.
Finland offers a wide variety of educational programs, from short-term courses to full degree programs. All the countries institutions of high educations offer courses taught in English. As at 2012, there were 939 Nigerian students studying in universities in Finland. Finland also offers tuition free universities for international students. However, the cost of living in Finland is relatively high.
- United Arab Emirates
Universities in UAE have been featured in world university ranking. In addition, a number of highly ranked universities based in other countries have branch campuses in the UAE. These include branch campuses run by Australia’s University of Wollongong, the UK’s Middlesex University and the USA’s Michigan State University. Of more than 200 international branch campuses in the world in 2012, 39 were located in UAE, making UAE the home to more branch campuses than any other countries in the world. This is as part of the ambition of the Emirates, in particular Abu Dhabi and Dubai, to become educational hubs, without compromising quality. About 1,249 Nigerian students were reported studying in UAE in 2012.
- Saudi Arabia
You may be surprised to find Saudi Arabia in the list. But it will interest you to know that, there were 1,622 Nigerian students reported studying in Saudi Arabia in 2012. Arab States; Egypt, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates are making efforts to recruit students from abroad. These 3 countries hosted 4% of the global share of mobile students.
- South Africa
In terms of internationalization and collaboration with foreign institutions, which are major requirements for successful evaluation and ranking of high institutions, South African universities are leading other African unis. The country attracted 22% of mobile students from sub-Saharan Africa in 2012 and is fast becoming a study destination for Nigerian students, with a reported population of 1,906 students in 2012. One down side, according to this article by a Nigerian student who went for postgraduate studies in South Africa, is that non South African students struggle to access scholarships despite all kinds of local and international funding available in South Africa.
Canadian universities and colleges are recognized for high standard for education, variety of program and friendliness to international students. UNESCO reported 2,031 Nigerian students studying in Canada in 2012. According to Ambassador Perry John Calderwood, Canadian High Commissioner in Nigeria, more than 6,000 Nigerian students were studying in Canadian universities in 2014. He also said that Nigeria has become the 8th largest source of foreign students in Canada. There are available Scholarships to study in Canada.
The Malaysian government has set the ambitious goal to become the world’s sixth largest education exporter by 2020. As a result, the Malaysian higher education sector is rapidly advancing, making it a popular study choice for international students. However, there have been several reported cases of Nigerian students being marginalized in this country. Constant intimidation, harassment and illegal arrests by Malaysian authorities. Such cases resulted to an open letter to President Jonathan by Nigerian students in Malaysia, to intervene on their behalf. But it’s still a study destination for 4,442 Nigerians due to its low cost of living, relatively low tuition fees and global recognition of academic qualification. The Malaysian Government offer scholarships for international students.
In a public lecture by Lamido Sanusi, former CBN governor, he said, “although there are no comprehensive data on the number of Nigerian students abroad, recent data have shown that there are about 71,000 Nigerian students in Ghana paying about US$1 billion annually as tuition fees and upkeep, as against the annual budget of US$751 million for all Nigerian federal universities”. This number of students reported by the former CBN governor is wide apart from the UNESCO report of 6,113 Nigerian students studying in Ghana as at 2012. Whatever the case, the point is that Ghana is a top destination for many Nigerians to further their studies.
- United States
The US has some of the best schools in the world, with quality education and tons of extra-curricular activities. It’s no doubt why it’s the second country in the list for Nigerian students. In 2014, the United States Embassy noted that 7,318 Nigerian students were studying in more than 700 universities and colleges in the US, at undergraduate and graduate levels. According to Mrs Jennifer Onyeukwu, Head Education USA Advising Centre (EAC), 80 percent of the Nigerian students who left to study in US in 2014 were given partial and full scholarships by the schools. Six students received the MasterCard Foundation Scholarship of $311,140 each annually for 4 years.
- United Kingdom
UK remains the number one destination for Nigerian students to study abroad. In 2012, there were 17,542 Nigerians studying in UK universities. Mr. Iain Steward, member of the British Parliament, said that about 30,000 Nigerian students would be studying in UK Universities by 2015. This number accounts for 7% of the total UK University population. As a result, there are several UK Scholarships opportunities for Nigerian Students and more scholarships every year.
Other 5 countries with Nigerian students studying abroad were Hungary – 475 students, Germany – 410 students, Australia – 398 students, Turkey – 342 students and India – 326 Nigerian students as at 2012.
Again the figure presented here may be under reported, but we assume it gives a representation of countries where you can find most Nigerian students.