The phrase “good things don’t last forever” seems to be the new reality for Nigerians aspiring to relocate to the United Kingdom (UK).
Once a popular travel destination for the Nigerian “japa” dream, it is slowly dropping off the ‘wannabe list’.
The UK is set to add new restrictions to curb its migrant population boom. This week, the monarchy-led country plans to disclose more details of a restriction affecting foreign postgraduates; they won’t be able to bring their families to the UK.
There are claims that this targeted Africans, and there are many reasons to believe so. But who exactly are the affected parties, and what would the impact of this restriction be for aspiring international students?
The affected parties
These include mostly students aspiring for a Master’s degree and some other postgraduate degrees. However, highly skilled PhD students with 3-5 years courses will remain unscathed by the ban.
What brought about this upcoming policy change? To understand this, we need to understand a few things that contributed to the need for the UK to have plans for travel restrictions.
You can also read: These Countries Are Red Flags for Your Japa Plans
An explosion in migrant-dependent population
In September 2022, official immigration data released by the British government revealed a surge in the number of foreign students in the UK. Students brought 135,788 family members—that’s nine times more than in 2019. Nigerian students—59,053 alone—brought over 60,923 relatives.
UK government when they saw the numbers
As a result, the UK Home Secretary, Suella Braverman, has considered clamping down on international students coming to the UK due to the massive “structural pressures” that it imposes.
The decision also follows reports that net migration into the UK has hit 1 million. This has made the Tory MPs ‘apply pressure’ on Prime Minister Rishi Sunak “to get a grip on the rocketing numbers”.
UK’s 2019 international education strategy
In case you didn’t know, the UK wasn’t always a popular destination for Nigerian students. Between 2012 and 2017, the country experienced a 27% drop in Nigerian student admissions, and they saw the need to up their game.
How we imagine the UK government plotting a way out of their predicament
Hence, the Department for Education and the Department for International Trade created the International Education Strategy in March 2019.
In this strategy, Nigeria was part of five high-priority countries (India, Indonesia, Saudi Arabia, and Vietnam) that the UK chose to achieve two main goals. This was to increase education exports by £35 billion per year and increase the number of international higher education students studying in the UK to 600,000 annually.
This plan worked on the Nigerian front, as the number of Nigerians who obtained UK student visas experienced a 39% increase (from 13,020 in 2019 to 21,305 in 2020).
But this wasn’t enough for the UK government. They needed to sweeten the deal, and in October 2020, the British Home Office introduced the student visa. It was established as an improvement to the former mode of student migration, called Tier 4. Among many new guidelines, it created a unique, golden opportunity for Nigerian students—to leave the country with their families.
But even though this served as a blessing in disguise for international students, we can all see what the UK government is about to do. Problem.
But why is the UK such a popular choice for Nigerian students?
For starters, it is home to one of the best immigration policies in the world for migrants, according to U.S. News & World Report. It also gives Nigerians access to Ivy League universities (e.g., Oxford and Harvard) and diverse job opportunities after graduation.
Due to these factors, the average Nigerian student can do anything to fund their access to UK education, from scholarships to even loans from family and friends.
Is the ban valid or not?
According to opinions on Twitter, most agree that there would be a drastic reduction in not just the families who make it abroad but in foreign students themselves.
However, this could also mean the UK government ‘shooting themselves in the foot’.
A 2021 report by SBM Intelligence revealed that Nigerian students and their families contributed as much as £1.9 billion to the economy in the 2020/2021 session. And really, would they want to miss out on that bag?
Let’s wait and see.