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90% of Nigerian youths want to leave the country and study abroad: Research

AN overwhelming 90 percent of young Nigerians are seeking to leave the country and earn their degree abroad, citing incessant strikes by college lecturers and lack of investment into tertiary education by the Nigerian government.

This was the outcome of the Nigeria Market Sentiments and Study Motivations Report of 2022, which was published recently by University of Sussex in England.

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The study was also funded by Nigeria-based think tank Culture Intelligence from and Vive Africa, a media and communications consultancy firm.

Frustration with President Buhari’s government

Apart from growing frustration with the government of President Muhammadu Buhari, most of the respondents also cited terrorism targeted at Nigerian institutions, scarce employment opportunities as well as the desire to start more rewarding career in developed countries as the reasons for them wanting to leave.

Nigeria’s security situation has been a cause for concern to locals and the international community at large, with armed extremists often kidnapping or even killing students.

In the survey, 4 098 respondents were randomly selected nationwide from eligible persons – those with the requisite academic grades to enter university education. Of these, 89.87% confirmed that they are looking to study abroad and their preferred destinations are English-speaking countries such as England, the Uniter States, Australia and Canada.

Wanting out: 89.87% confirmed that they are looking to study abroad.

Some 65 percent of the respondents surveyed are seeking undergraduate education while 34 percent are for postgraduate studies.

Others cited Malaysia, the Netherlands, Turkey, China and India as their destinations of choice for university education.

According to the research findings, ease of assimilation into English-speaking cultures was cited as a key determinant for the university destinations. Other respondents cited the  promise  of  a  part-time job  while  in  school  as  important. 

Yet other major considerations include low  living expenses;  a previous interest to live in  the country; and having relatives or friends in  the city.

Reads the report in part: “Ranking the reasons for selecting their preferred countries, scholarships (10.51%); safety and security (10.40%); Legacy – many professionals are from the chosen country (10.35%); promise of a part-time job while in school (10.23%); welcoming and friendly community (10.18%) were the five major reasons.

Lecturers influencing students to leave

As regards who influences their decision-making on tertiary education, the respondents cited that career mentors, advisors, and lecturers ranked had the most influence on their college choices.

Some said their choices were a result of personal research, academic engagements and events, the media, social media influencers, university agents, and employers.

While the Nigerian economy has been stagnant of late, the upcoming national elections in 2023 have led to security concerns among youths, hence the desire to leave for overseas education.

“Nigeria has also seen a booming middle and elite class who value quality education, have international exposure, specific educational preferences, a higher disposable income and general affluence.

“But the low growth, combined with the nation’s lack of transnational education, has triggered the desire to leave,” reads the report.

However, with the Nigerian economy hardly expanding over the last decade, the majority of respondents do not have personal resources to fund their overseas education. Only 10% say they personally could meet the over US$12,000 needed per year by universities in the UK.

Only 10% say they personally could meet their University education

The research also found that the disruptive Covid-19 pandemic has had an impact in the degree choices of Nigerian students.

“Courses such as Law, Engineering, Health Studies and Medicine, Business Management, Computer  Science and Information Technology, including Media Studies & Writing and Nursing  were highly  ranked by  the respondents. 

“A  majority  of  the respondents (64.5%)  confirmed  that  the  pandemic  affected  their  choices,  which  means  they  decided  on  their  courses  of  study  due  to  the  projected  effects  of  the  global  pandemic,” reads the report.

Covid-19 pandemic has had an impact in the degree choices of Nigerian students

The researchers believe that heath-related  courses  such as  Nursing  have a spike  in  enrolment  in many countries  as healthcare systems were left shaken by the pandemic.

Sampling technique used

The researchers used what they call “convenient non-probabilistic sampling” due  to  the  speed,  cost-efficiency,  and  ease  of  accessibility considering the need for limited social interactions and social distancing under COVID-19 guidelines.

The researchers mainly targeted young undergraduates, new graduates and career professionals aged 18 – 27 years. About 23% of respondents were students under 18 years, 49% were between 18-25 years.

Approximately 20% of the respondents were over 26 years old.

Four thousand and eighty-eight (4,088) respondents participated in the research (4,008 respondents; 80 interviews), with data collected through an online survey, phone interviews, and multimedia conversations, said the researchers.

Who commissioned the research?

The research was commissioned by the University of Sussex, an institution which ranks first in the world for Development Studies.

The University of Sussex has produced eminent alumni including former African Presidents and Vice-Presidents such as Thabo Mbeki (South Africa) and Festus Mogae (Botswana), Isatou Touray (Gambia), and George Saitoti (Kenya).

Culture Intelligence from RED, Africa’s leading think tank on media, marketing, and the culture – conducted the research. The organisation helps companies, governments, and change-makers with data-backed insight for evidence-based decision-making.

The research was also facilitated by Vive Africa, a full-service media and communications consultancy with experience and networks in Africa’s frontier markets.

Recommendations from the research

As part of its recommendations, the research says UK universities should indicate their willingness to invest in their studies, either by providing full or partial scholarships or working with partners who can deliver such scholarships.

“UK universities should consider adding job prospects/employability programs to support students looking to secure graduate level jobs after studies,” reads the research findings.

“Initiatives such as work placements, consultancy projects, internships, volunteering, bespoke career events for international students are some of the programs that universities should consider.”

WhatsApp  conversations or emails that provide updates and news about the university will prove to be more effective than generic emails.

Overseas education institutions are also advised to invest in more personalised communication. 

“An official event, followed by consistent  communication through WhatsApp  conversations or emails that provide updates and news about the university will prove to be much more effective than generic emails at  the initial stage of engagement.

“A partnership with local universities or  departments, where lecturers and career  mentors also function as ambassadors is also recommended.”

Nigeria has the highest number of universities in Africa. As of July 2020, the West African nation boasted 262 higher education institutions, while countries like Equatorial Guinea have only one university.

Download the research document below: