For many young Nigerians, the pursuit of knowledge is taking on an international flavor as they are leaving in droves to either start or further their higher education in foreign lands. In response to this trend, a new industry has emerged, dedicated to helping applicants sort through a bewildering array of country choices and funding requirements. Radio jingles and education fares extoll the virtues of student visas in relatively unknown countries and urge prospective applicants to begin their journey to a better life immediately.
Studies indicate that in a recent three year period, the number of foreign students of Nigerian origin jumped by a massive 41%. Students from the largest black nation also accounted for 31% of African students in US higher institutions.
Why are young Nigerians abandoning the local education opportunities and opting for foreign degrees? Some of the reasons are explored below.
Local options are simply not enough
As the population of the country continues to climb, the government has been struggling to educate its young citizens. More than 1.5 million students apply yearly for placements in higher institutions through the Unified Tertiary Matriculation Examination administered by JAMB. In reality, they are competing for about half a million spots. Families that have the means are choosing to avoid the tight race by exploring foreign education options.
Also, often times, courses candidates are interested in are not available locally.
The state of Nigerian public universities
Successful UTME candidates have a lot to say about the state of the country’s public higher institutions. Terribly inadequate facilities, dilapidating learning environment, outdated syllabuses and teaching methods, over population, examination malpractice scandals, extended strike actions that add years to their stay and authoritarian-styled school management are well-known issues plaguing such institutions both at state and federal levels. This has reflected in international rankings where the nation’s universities often perform poorly.
Preference for foreign degrees by employers of labor
A common trend among recruiters in the nation is a bias for foreign degrees. The more foreign the name of your university sounds, the higher you are ranked among the pool of applicants. Many Nigerian youths who wish to work in the country are learning to cut the line by obtaining degrees abroad.
Many young Nigerians seeking a path to better living conditions are taking the foreign education route. It is a known fact that the country’s economy is grappling with increasing levels of unemployment and underemployment. Job security is becoming restricted mainly to the civil service as companies after companies pull out to neighboring countries. This is why applicants are targeting countries where there is a path to permanent residency. This contributes to a ‘brain-drain’ because they are simply choosing not to return after completing their studies.
The availability of scholarships and study-work programs
One of the baits used by practitioners in the foreign education business is the promise of scholarships and study-work programs, which are not easy to obtain in the country. It is tempting to many applicants who come from families that made enormous financial sacrifices to put them through their first degrees.
Studying abroad is fascinating for many young Nigerians for personal reasons. Some simply yearn to experience a life different from what they are used to. Hence, studying abroad is killing two birds with a stone as they live a new life and also get a degree.