Opportunities and Growth in Nigerian Student Mobility

From 2008 to 2012, the number of Nigerian students studying overseas at the tertiary level grew 98 percent (UIS 2012 [1]), with 14 percent of the total overseas body attending a U.S. institution of higher education. Enrollments have been increasing steadily over the past few years (see figure 1) and Nigeria is now the 18th leading place of origin for the U.S. higher education sector, which last year enrolled 7,921 Nigerian students (IIE Open Doors 2013/14 [2]).

For higher education institutions (HEIs) hoping to diversify their international applicant pool, there are several reasons to look at Nigeria. The country [3] has both the largest economy and population in Africa, as well as rich oil reserves which is fueling the growth of a middle class, particularly in its urban areas [4]. Paired with a booming [5] population of college-aged students and an overburdened domestic education system [6], the country is a promising source of international students. However, despite Nigeria’s growing economy, institutions hoping to recruit from the West African powerhouse must be cognizant of the diversity of students within the country, and plan their outreach efforts accordingly.

According to WES’ segmentation methodology [7], Nigerian students are heavily concentrated in the ‘Highflier’ and ‘Striver’ segments, which combined account for 77 percent of all Nigerian students that we surveyed. Although, both segments have high academic preparedness, they diverge in terms of their financial capabilities. It is predicted that half of Nigeria’s growth in wealth [4] will come from the 11-18 percent of middle class, urban households earning over $10,000 a year, suggesting opportunities for institutions seeking to increase their enrollment of Highfliers (students with high financial resources and high academic preparedness). Given the country’s large population and growing middle class, Nigeria also has a considerable number of Strivers (students with low financial resources and high academic preparedness), who are likely to face challenges in funding their higher education abroad. This suggests that there is an opportunity for HEI’s that want to recruit high achieving qualified students by offering attractive financial aid packages.

WENR_0315_mobiity_v3-600px_Fig1 [8]

Data from a recent WES report [9] show how Millennial students fund their education in the U.S. and the sources they use to seek information about studying abroad. The data show that the majority of Nigerian students who wish to pursue their higher education in the U.S. are self-funded with 78 percent receiving financial support from family or friends and 50 percent using personal savings.1 [10]

Additionally, compared to 22 percent of overall international students, only 4 percent of Nigerian students indicated that they used loans to fund their studies abroad. This is likely due to the fact that Nigerian students face difficulties procuring educational loans [11]. Our survey also revealed that apart from college/university websites and web searches, around 20 percent of Nigerian students use in-person education fairs to seek information on studying abroad. However, while international education fairs have been growing in popularity, they are at the same time attracting more public scrutiny [12].

Despite issues of corruption and religious conflict [13] in Nigeria, many of these issues are highly localized and region-specific [14]. With positive economic trends [14] and a growing population of young and financially secure students, Nigeria offers institutions opportunities to diversify their international student body in the medium to long term. Institutions that plan to recruit students from Nigeria need to understand the diversity of students within the country and develop targeted and appropriate recruiting strategies accordingly.

1. [15] The numbers do not add up to 100 as respondents in the survey were asked to choose their top 2 sources of funding.

Previous Mobility Monitors

WES in the News

Digital Behaviors of International Millennial Students [9]