In this Inbound Insight series article, we look at the shifting patterns in Nigerian outbound student mobility and explore the priorities of this student cohort when searching for student accommodation based on data gathered through the Global Student Living Index.
UNESCO 2020 data shows that the United Kingdom was the most popular study-abroad destination for students from Nigeria, with 21,241 (25%) Nigerian students hosted in the UK. The UK is followed by the United States, with 12,254 students (14.45%), and Canada, which hosted 8,337 Nigerian students (9.8%).
More recent data from each destination country shows that Nigerian outbound numbers have grown significantly since 2020. For example, 2021/22 HESA data shows that in 2021/22, 44,195 Nigerian students were studying in the UK, making Nigeria the UK’s third largest source market. The United States International Student data for 2022/23 shows that there were 17,640 Nigerian students studying in the US, a 22.2% increase from 2021/22, and, similarly, Canadian Bureau for International Education data indicates that there were 21,660 Nigerian students studying in Canada in 2022, a 160% increase from 2020.
Changing patterns in Nigerian outbound mobility
Outbound student mobility from Nigeria fluctuates year to year based on economic trends, visa processes, and post-study options.
As an example, following the announcement by the UK government of the graduate route visa in 2019, the UK has seen a surge in the number of Nigerian students studying in the UK. In 2018/19, 10,810 Nigerian students were studying in UK higher education institutions. This figure increased by 308% to 44,195 students in 2021/22.
The UK Government’s announcement in May 2023 restricting the number of dependents coming to the UK with international students on postgraduate taught programs is predicted to impact Nigerian student numbers in the UK, as students from Nigeria were issued the highest number (66,796) of visas to dependents of sponsored study visa holders in the year prior to the announcement of the policy change.
While the announcement of the policy change was reported to have created a surge in applications for September 2023, this may not have translated into increased enrolments. The Pie News reports that EdTech provider Enroly suggests that has been a decline in Nigerian student enrolments of up to 21.42% in September 2023 compared to September 2022, although this could be linked to the sudden devaluation of the Nigerian naira rather than the change in visa policy.
The decreasing value of the naira, along with restrictive foreign exchange policies that were put in place by the Nigerian government in 2016, have had an adverse effect on Nigerian students’ ability to access funds and pay for tuition in recent years.
In spite of these challenges, demand for international education in Nigeria is expected to increase due to its growing population and growing wealth, although ongoing currency and foreign exchange issues may see this cohort turn to alternative destinations. The Nigerian population in 2023 is 216 million and is projected to exceed 400 million by 2050, making it the world’s third-largest population. Nearly 60% of the Nigerian population is under 24 years old. Nigeria’s GDP per capita is forecast to increase by 55% by 2028.
Priorities for students from Nigeria
When it comes to choosing a study destination, research by IDP Connect shows that safety, whether a country is perceived as welcoming, affordability and favourable policies around during and post-study work rights are key. GSL Index Data highlights that when choosing a university, accommodation plays a significantly more important role (78%) in decision-making around where to study than for international students more broadly (62%).
Data from the latest Global Student Living Index (2023 Q2) shows that students from Nigeria have similar priorities to other students. However, the condition and quality of the accommodation (76% vs 72%) and availability of an ensuite (70% vs 63%) are more important to Nigerian students than the broader international student cohort. Nigerian students also place a high priority on the availability of communal spaces compared to the broader international cohort. Flexible contracts are also more important for Nigerian students (56%) than international students more broadly (41%).
Room type and rent
Students from Nigeria are more likely (69%) to be living in a private bedroom than international students in general (62%), and more likely to be living in university halls (21% vs. 15%). They are also significantly more likely to need to work part-time (42%) to pay their rent than some other international cohorts. Part-time work is likely to increase in importance as cost of living pressures increase.
When it comes to resources used in the accommodation search, students from Nigeria turn to university websites and general web searches. They are more likely than other groups to use online reviews and recommendations, and less likely than international students more broadly to use an educational agent or consultant to help them in their search for accommodation.
Nigerian students are most likely to have booked directly with the university housing or accommodation office or via a letting agency, and much less likely (4%) than international students in general (14%) to book their accommodation via an educational consultant or agent.
Global Student Living Index data also shows that Nigerian students differ from the broader international cohort when it comes to the type of wellbeing struggles experienced – in particular, Nigerian students struggle with work-related issues and feelings of homesickness more than the broader international cohort. These issues are discussed in more detail in the GSL/CUBO report Future Proof: meeting the diverse needs of international students, available to download via the CUBO website.