Big Win as UK Approved Visas to Nigerian Students Rises by 347% in 2021

In recent years, there has been an upsurge in the number of people aiming to move to the UK from Nigeria. For Nigerian students nursing the same ambition, there was an impressive turnaround last year as the British government issued a record high study visas to people from across the world.

In the year ending September 2021, there were a total of 428,428 Sponsored study visas granted to applicants and their dependents. This translates to:

  • 143% higher than the year ending September 2020
  • 55% increase or 152,077 higher than the year ending September 2019.
  • It accounts for a 29% increase when compared to a decade ago, in June 2020, which had a total of 307,744.

Record Number Benefited by Nigerians

Nigerians are among the biggest winners of the positive development as they enjoy a massive increase compared to the previous year.

“In the top 5 nationalities, Nigerian nationals saw the largest relative increase in Sponsored Study grants compared with the year ending September 2019, increasing by 28,923 (+368%) to a record high of 36,783, making them the third largest nationality group this year,” the report stated.

According to the report, in the year ending September 2019, Nigerian nationalities received 7,860 study sponsored visas, 8,229 in 2020, and a whopping 36,783 in 2021.

Also benefitted from the increase in UK Student visas for Nigerians are their dependants. This could be good news to UK educators who have in the past decade lost significant ground of the Nigerian market to other countries, including Canada, the United States, South Africa, and Ghana.

A 2021 Carnegie Empowerment for Peace report shows that overall Nigerian student enrolments in UK universities fell from 18,020 in 2013-14 to 10,540 in 2017-2018. The trend was said to have continued through 2019-2020.

The report highlighted affordability and ease of visa application process as some of the Nigerian students usually consider before choosing a destination for study, suggesting that the UK could be losing to other countries that provided a more friendly environment for applicants. With this latest upsurge, however, more Nigerian students would likely become more open to patronising UK schools in years to come.

The report shows that 90% of the total visas were issued to main applicants and the rest to their dependants. This is another win for UK-bound international students, compared to work visas that had 68% for main applicants.

Nigeria, China, India, the United States, and Pakistan make the top five countries with the highest increase in visa approval. Over 135,450 visas went to Chinese students, while Indian students received 90,970, almost tripled the 2019 figure, which stood at 30,490.

The last year’s development also saw an upsurge for non-EU applicants, while there is a significant drop for their EU counterparts. Of the total visas granted, only 20,775 (9%) went to EU/EEA students, compared to 64,000 who started courses in the UK in 2019-20. 2021 is the first year that EU nationals would need visas to enter the UK.

New Graduate Route: Bigger Opportunity for Nigerian Students in the UK

The newly introduced Graduate Visa by the UK government may also be another factor contributing to the uptick in the number of enrolments from the Nigerian market. The opportunity to stay back and work after graduation has been a big deal for Nigerian students when choosing an international destination.

Introduced in July 2021, the Graduate Visa route gives international students 2 years to work or find work in the UK after completing a bachelor’s or master’s degree and 3 years for doctoral graduates.

Though the visa cannot be extended after expiration, holders can switch to another visa, such as a skilled worker visa, for people who want to remain in the UK. Skilled workers are eligible to stay and work in the UK for up to 5 years, and they can extend the visa after that. They may also be eligible to apply for Indefinite Leave to Remain, which is a step closer to British citizenship for interested immigrants.