Nigeria, the most populous country in Africa and seventh most populous in the world, is a key emerging market for institutions looking to grow and diversify international student enrollments. The “Giant of Africa” is home to more than 200 million people, with one of the largest youth populations in the world[i]. With an education system unequipped to meet demand, many students look to pursue their education abroad.
IDP Education launched student placement operations in Nigeria in February 2022, followed by the opening of a physical office in June. With a growing team of on-the-ground experts available to help students and institutions, it’s an ideal time for partners to invest into this key market. In addition to the physical office in Lagos, IDP Education Nigeria runs virtual offices in Kano, Ibadan, Port Harcourt, and Abuja, serving major population centers across the country.
At a recent webinar, Funmi Peter-Thomas, Acting Country Manager & IELTS Operations Manager and Odianosen Iseyare, Marketing Operations Manager answered questions from our clients about IDP Education Nigeria’s launch. They share insights on the Nigerian student market, best practices for recruitment, and tips on how to engage with IDP Education Nigeria.
Which destination countries have the most demand from Nigerian students?
According to IDP Connect Demand Tracker data, Canada leads the way as the destination of choice for Nigerian students, with 46% of demand. The UK is the second most popular choice with 30%, and the US comes in third with 18%.
What are the main decision-making factors for Nigerian students when choosing a program or institution?
The most important factors for Nigerian students when choosing a program are tuition fees and the availability of scholarships. Nigerian students also look for schools with a diverse community where they will feel welcomed. For parents, being close to home is an important factor, which explains why the UK is such a popular choice. Rankings play a part, but affordability is more important.
What is the visa approval rate of your students in graduate versus undergraduate programs? Do you see any programs in particular where students have a more difficult time getting visa approval?
Visa approval rates vary by country. In the UK, we see about a 98% approval rate. In Canada, it’s around 40%, and in the US around 50%. We don’t see a major difference in approval rates between graduate and undergraduate programs, but the volume of graduate applications is much higher.
There is no major difference in visa approval rates between the popular majors such as engineering, business, and science, but for pre-med, medical related, and vocational courses, the visa process can be more difficult.
Are you seeing any recent changes in terms of subject demand?
The most popular subjects are engineering, business, computer science, medical, biomedical, and public health. Interest in hospitality and tourism and sports science is growing. Parents are typically less willing to pay for sports and arts programs, but we are seeing that starting to change.
Which destination country is seen as more favorable in terms of post-graduate work opportunity?
When the UK introduced the Graduate visa, which allows students to stay in the UK and work for two years post-graduation, it became a very attractive destination. Canada is a first choice for students who are interested in emigrating and pursuing permanent residency.
What are your thoughts on English Language Proficiency tests, such as IELTS, TOEFL, or Duolingo, for Nigerian students?
Most Nigerian students will push back on ELP test requirements – they don’t want to take the test because English is the official language in Nigeria. Some institutions will accept school credentials such as the West African Examination Council WASSCE exam (the secondary school completion credential in Nigeria) to ensure the level of English is satisfactory. Requirements vary by program and by institution, but in general Nigerian students are reluctant to take exams like IELTS, TOEFL, or Duolingo.
Can you elaborate on the difficulties with obtaining foreign currency in Nigeria, how this issue affects students, and ways to help students deal with it?
There have been issues with students getting foreign funds in the past few years; right now, it is very difficult. Currently, the only way for students to obtain foreign funds is through the Central Bank of Nigeria’s online platform, which is taking months, or go through the parallel (black) market. We’re liaising with banks to see how they can help our students and fast-track the process. We send our students to recommended banks. It’s a difficult issue, and we would like to do more in the future.
We have heard of transfer students being unable to obtain their transcripts. Is this common?
There is a transfer student market in Nigeria – because it can take Nigerian students longer to complete their education due to issues such as strikes, they are interested in going abroad to complete their studies more quickly. Due to these same issues, it can be difficult for students to obtain their transcripts. It’s easier with private schools, but with federal schools it can be quite difficult and take a long time.
What is the best time of year to visit Nigeria for recruitment?
For US and Canadian institutions, due to the length of the visa process and challenges regarding visa interview appointments, it’s ideal to visit in January or early February for the Fall intake. For the UK institutions, September is the best time to come for the January intake, and it’s best to visit 3-4 times a year.
Do Nigerian students prefer virtual or face-to-face events?
Nigeria has traditionally been more of a face-to-face market, but since the pandemic people are more receptive to virtual. Virtual events have the advantage of spread – more students across the country can attend events than just those who would be able to travel for physical events.
IDP Education Nigeria will continue to offer a variety of in-person, hybrid, and fully remote events depending on the timing and target audience. For example, events on the weekday are better to conduct virtually due to traffic.
Are there any travel restrictions in Nigeria?
There are currently no travel restrictions in Nigeria – please come visit!
How do I find out about IDP recruitment events in Nigeria?
Partners can log in to My-IDP-Connect at any time to browse upcoming events under “IDP Events Online.” You will also receive email invitations and can follow us on social media for the latest updates. We always recommend connecting with your Client Director before registering for an event.
Will there be any events specifically for undergraduate recruitment?
In the future, there will be events targeting undergraduate students. Although Nigeria is primarily a graduate market, interest in undergraduate study is growing.
What can institutions do to engage with IDP Education Nigeria and stand out in the marketplace?
Institutions can support IDP Education Nigeria by offering trainings for the team, visiting the office for in-country interview sessions, participating in virtual and in-person fairs, and sending timely admission decisions. Students are very interested in scholarships and affordability, so any scholarship opportunities can help institutions stand out.