Enrollment of Nigerian Students in UK Increased by 47% This 2022

For higher education institutions (HEIs) in the United Kingdom and their enrollment numbers in terms of Nigerian students, things are off to a fine start in 2022. The Universities and Colleges Admissions Service (UCAS) released encouraging numbers at the start of the year. But will these numbers be sustainable to carry out the UK’s mission of attracting more students from Nigeria?

Key Points at a Glance


  • In 2021, 83% of Nigerian students believe the UK to be “more welcoming” to international students.
  • Compared to 2020, the number of Nigerian students in the UK increased by 47%.
  • Amid rising competition from other destination countries, the UK has focused on Nigeria as a top source market in 2021.
  • Results have been promising as Nigeria ranks third in international students in the UK, only behind China and India.

In 2021, a survey revealed that 83% of students in Nigeria believe that the UK has become more welcoming to international students.


Compared to numbers from 2021 (+1,620), the number of Nigerian students increased 47% this year (+2,380). When considering enrollment numbers starting in 2018, these results show a steady trend on the rise. In fact, when compared to 2018 data, 2022 numbers show a 68.9% increase.


Nigeria recorded the most significant “proportional increase” of international students in the UK this year, and remains a top source market among African nations for British universities, followed by Ghana and Kenya.


In a January 2022 report, UCAS revealed that 88% of international applicants continue to see the UK as a positive or very positive place to study. This rounds up the public sentiment in the international education community about how it collectively feels about studying in the UK.



While UK HEIs are welcoming more Nigerian students with open arms, the UCAS report revealed that, generally speaking, half of international students are still unsure of pursuing further studies this year because of a “knowledge and support gap” in terms of how to study in the UK. This serves as a reminder for UK HEIs on how to approach their strategies and initiatives in campus growth and development.




While 2018-2022 has shown progress for the UK in terms of Nigerian student enrollments, things remain bearish from a zoomed out perspective. The UK has seen Nigerian enrollment drop from 18,020 in 2013 to 10,540 in 2018, while competition for Nigerian students among destination countries has been up in recent years.


In 2020, the United States attracted more Nigerian students by granting US$28 million worth of scholarships via its Education USA program. In 2021, a group of academics in Canada, who are of Nigerian descent, voiced their concerns to Immigration regarding the decline of study permit approvals for applicants from Nigeria. They claimed that the English proficiency test was “discriminatory” and added that at all levels of formal education in Nigeria, English is the primary language of instruction. Aside from the US and Canada, Malaysia is also taking the bulk of Nigerian enrollments in recent years.




In response, and as part of its refreshed International Education Strategy, the UK has identified Nigeria as one of its priority markets for international students. In the policy paper published February 2021, the UK set a target of hosting 600,000 international students by 2030.


On an encouraging note, recent figures have shown that the UK had already hit its target 10 years earlier, as UK higher education providers hosted 605,130 international students in the 2020/21 academic year.


Where does Nigeria fit into all of this? Comfortably in third, only behind China and India. Thirty-two percent of non-EU international students in 2020-2021 were from China, and 19% were from India.


These numbers are a testament to the effective and immediate response by the UK, and how things can only get better from here for Nigerian students who want to study in the UK. (SUNEETHA QURESHI)



President, MSM

Suneetha has worked for 15 years in the international education sector and 25 years overall, including her work for other industries. As president of MSM, she fortifies its business development outreach globally, particularly in the face of MSM’s foray into edtech-based recruitment via MSM Unify. She preserves the premium, value-adding services provided to each MSM partner institute, including dedicated teams on the ground, agent management, lead generation and inquiry management, application pre-screening, and student and parent support through pioneering pre-departure briefing sessions.

She has an impeccable track record of successfully launching the representative offices in Asia and Africa of many North American and European higher education institutions. Her key strengths include hiring, training, and developing teams as evidenced by the successful results of the dedicated in-country college and university client teams.


Suneetha also has taken the lead in developing several initiatives at MSM, including building robust standard operating procedures, the Rise ‘n Shine team engagement platform, and the organization’s data analytics and audit segments.

Data sources:

Kigotho, W. (2021, May) Pandemic adds to UK’s study appeal for African students. University World News. Retrieved from https://www.universityworldnews.com/post.php?story=20210505071642339


UK Universities and Colleges see record applications from key international markets, as UCAS launches a dedicated new platform (2022, February 17) UCAS. Retrieved from https://www.ucas.com/corporate/news-and-key-documents/news/uk-universities-and-colleges-see-record-applications-key-international-markets-ucas-launches


Where next? The experience of international students connecting to UK Higher Education (2021) UCAS. Retrieved from https://www.ucas.com/file/560406/download?token=TnQfUxAL


Yusuf, K. (2021, February 1) As the economic crisis worsens, Nigerian students in UK universities reduce by 41% – Report. Premium Times. Retrieved from https://www.premiumtimesng.com/news/headlines/439922-as-economic-crisis-worsens-nigerian-students-in-uk-universities-reduce-by-41-report.html


The US attracts Nigerian students with $28m in scholarships (2021, June 11) Study International. Retrieved from https://www.studyinternational.com/news/nigerian-students-us-28m-scholarships/


Dickson, J. (2021, December 2) Canada urged to investigate decline in Nigerian study permit approvals. The Globe and Mail. Retrieved from https://www.theglobeandmail.com/politics/article-canada-urged-to-investigate-decline-in-nigerian-study-permit-approvals/


International Education Strategy: 2021 update: Supporting recovery, driving growth (2021, February 6). Government of the United Kingdom. Retrieved from https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/international-education-strategy-2021-update/international-education-strategy-2021-update-supporting-recovery-driving-growth


Higher Education Student Statistics: UK, 2020/21 – Where students come from and go to study (2022, January 25) Higher Education Statistics Agency. Retrieved from https://www.hesa.ac.uk/news/25-01-2022/sb262-higher-education-student-statistics/location


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