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UK aims 600k students from Nigeria, others

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By Abiodun Okunloye

£41.9bn in economic benefit expected annually from international student intake.

According to a recent report by Hazel Shearing of the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC), the UK government is making efforts to attract more international students to their schools, aiming for a target of 600,000 per year by 2030. This plan particularly emphasises countries such as Nigeria, India, Vietnam, Indonesia, and Saudi Arabia. Education plays a vital role in the economic progress of nations, with countries like the UK leveraging the power of quality education to enhance their financial prosperity.

The country’s government is actively working to increase its soft power and economic strength by attracting international students through education exports. An estimated £41.9bn in economic benefits is projected from a yearly intake of international students, exceeding the 600,000 targeted number of students for the years 2020-21 and 2021-22. Data from the Universities and Colleges Admissions Service (UCAS) revealed that there has been a decrease in the number of individuals applying for nursing programs. The Royal College of Nursing has expressed concerns that this decline could result in a shortage of staff within the National Health Service (NHS).

Applications rise despite migration reduction and stricter regulation.

For the second consecutive year, they have seen an increase in the number of international students seeking admission to undergraduate programs. Recent data reveals that there were 115,730 applicants from outside for courses starting in September, compared to 114,910 the previous year. This rise in applications comes despite the government’s efforts to reduce migration through stricter regulations. Studies have been made that universities have lowered their standards to attract international students who pay higher fees than UK students. Despite this, the number of international applicants has not yet reached the peak of 116,110 before the Covid-19 outbreak. UCAS chief executive Jo Saxton reassures domestic students that the increase in international applications should not deter them, as UK applications have also been on the rise in recent years.

However, the majority of international students are enrolled in postgraduate programs like master’s degrees. Despite a slight increase of approximately 0.71 percent, Vivienne Stern, chief executive of Universities UK, which represents 142 higher-education institutions, expressed cautious optimism while noting that this data only provides a limited perspective. She emphasised the volatile nature of international student recruitment, highlighting universities’ challenges. In the UK, undergraduate tuition fees can vary depending on the location of the student. The most amount a student will pay yearly is £9,250 ( ₦17,602,750). International students, on the other hand, may have to pay £38,000 (₦72,314,00) for undergraduate courses and £30,000 (₦57,090,000) for postgraduate courses annually.

Migration rise due to surge in postgraduate study applications.

Universities in England have expressed concerns about the tuition fee cap, which has increased only once since 2012, going from £9,000 to £9,250 (about ₦17,127,000 to ₦17,602,750) a year. They fear that it is not adequately adjusting for inflation. According to the Russell Group, which represents 24 universities, there has been a decrease in the funding received from student loans and government teaching grants. This has resulted in universities facing a deficit of £2,500 per domestic undergraduate student. The Higher Education Statistics Agency (HESA) also reported an increase in international student enrolment from ₦469,160 in 2017-18 to ₦679,970 in 2021-22 across both undergraduate and postgraduate programs.

Research from the University of Oxford indicates that the rise in migration numbers is primarily due to a surge in applications for postgraduate studies, as opposed to the undergraduate programs typically pursued by 18-year-olds in the UK. Nevertheless, recent regulations targeting migration have restricted international students from bringing their family members along unless they are enrolled in research programs or have scholarships funded by the government. Stern expressed concerns about how restrictions on international students could affect universities politically. The income from international students used to be extra funds that universities could invest in addition to their domestic income, but now it has become a necessity rather than a bonus.

Related Article: 127k Nigerians studied in the UK as of 2022

She also emphasised earlier that universities are facing financial losses from teaching UK students and research. The recent increase in international student numbers due to post-COVID-19 recovery is expected to decline this year as a result of heightened political resistance to migration and rising tuition fees in the UK. Evidence of financial strain on universities is becoming increasingly evident. A number of universities, such as the University of Aberdeen and Staffordshire University, have announced layoffs due to financial difficulties and unpredictable student enrolment trends. Strikes related to salary and retirement benefits have caused disruptions in higher education institutions throughout the country in the past few years.

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