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Trends for Nigerian students studying abroad

Sep 4, 2019 | EdTech

Continuing our series of articles regarding profiles and information sources for international students from major sending countries, we’re looking at the leader in Sub-Saharan Africa – Nigeria.

As our earlier blog entry, “Trends for Indian students studying abroad” noted, Sub-Saharan Africa’s population is estimated to be nearly 2.5 billion by 2050. A key driver in this growth is Nigeria. The oil-rich coastal nation will see its nearly 200 million population more than double in the coming decades, topping 400 million by 2050. Even such a projection may be an understatement as some experts, noting expanding infrastructure and economic diversity, believe it will be even greater.

The history of Nigeria informs the future prognosis. Dating back to the 11th century, due to the fortuitous location on the Gulf of Guinea and fertile Niger Delta, it became a regional hub for trade and agriculture, drawing in a vastly diverse collection of traders and entrepreneurs from thousands of miles away. The commerce activity intensified following the colonization by the British in the early 19th century through Nigerian independence in the mid-20th century, and to the present, where the country is recognized as the world’s 20th largest economy. This distinction makes Nigeria the largest economy in Africa, a title it wrested from South Africa at the onset of the 2010s.

To address the needs of a growing nation, President Muhammadu Buhari, since taking office in 2015, has sought to make education a priority. As such, the national budget has seen an increase in spending to over $1 billion annually for the academic sector consisting of over 300 Higher Education Institutions (HEIs). Currently, over 90,000 students study abroad a year, with a substantial amount going to the UK (approximately 30,000) and the USA (approximately 20,000, with California, New York, and Maryland being the most common destinations).

With the steadily increasing population, UNESCO projects that Nigeria will lead the world in students studying abroad in addition to its population growth. Even before such an achievement is reached, Nigeria represents an opportunity for HEIs worldwide to diversify their international student population further. This blog will examine the further keys to trends within the study behavior and habits of students from the African country.

The general profile of a student applicant from Nigeria

To determine the general profile of an international student from Nigeria, we’ll look at basic factors, such as gender, age, acceptance rate, and other criteria. To ensure the most relevant information, we’ll include only submitted applications from 2016-2018. Within these criteria, we have a population of 24 690 unique applicants who completed their applications for a DreamApply partner school. It is important here to note that students can use DreamApply to apply to more than one course with a single application, those students sent in 32 155 applications, 1.3 applications, on average, per student.

Most students from Nigeria are males – out of all submitted Nigerian applications in the DreamApply platform who have indicated their gender, 24.5% are females, and 75.5% are males. It’s worth noting that the ratio of female Nigerian students applying to study abroad is slowly rising – in 2016, it was 20%; in 2018, it rose to 25.5%.

Out of 24 690 students who applied, only 2145 received some notice of admission, a meager 8% conversion rate. The share of females who received an offer has increased from 18.9% in 2016 to 24.44% in 2018. Thus, there is very little difference between the conversion rates of males and females.

Applicants from Nigeria tend to be older than other high-volume countries like India. In 2018, only 17.89% of students were aged between 21-25 years, while 23% were between 26-30 years, and nearly 60% remaining were over 30. The data indicates a continued trend further upward in age – In 2016, 8.68% of applicants were 17-20 years old compared to only 2.83% in that demographic in 2018.

Across the selected timeframe, 38.5% of applicants from Nigeria applied to the bachelor level, 45,33% to the MA level, and 7.10% to the Ph.D. level. The data indicates growth in applicants applying to master-level studies – In 2016, 41,2% of applicants applied to MA-level courses; in 2018, this grew to 52.6%.

Study areas

We also were interested to see which courses Nigerian students apply to most. To reach this conclusion, we examined all the courses in the DreamApply systems and grouped them according to the major subject (this brevity was done as the number of courses offered throughout the entire DreamApply is staggering). We selected 8629 applicants from 2018 and assigned denotation by study subject.

While the study subjects to which Nigerian applicants apply are diverse, the most popular is engineering, with almost a third of applicants. Alternatively, Management and Public Administration are popular, definitively #2 and #3, but they trail behind Engineering by a noteworthy amount—all other courses slot in behind these three.

Information channels

Most universities using DreamApply have made it mandatory for applicants to choose their main information channels indicating where they received information about studying abroad. By combining information channels across all students who have applied, we can determine general trends and measure changes. We were interested if this data could give us answers on top of information channels for Indian students.

We analyzed a sample of 8390 students between 2016 and 2018 and divided them into main categories:

Information source Description
Advertisement Advertisements on billboards, newspapers, web banners, marketing handouts, etc
Agent Agents, personal counselors, etc
Fair Education fairs
National portal Centralized marketing portals aimed at marketing the country as a whole
Online General organic searches, Google, Bing, etc
Other Any other channel not listed elsewhere, such as  country visits, etc
Portal Designated education portals such as StudyPortal, Masterstudies, etc
Ranking Ranking sites and -lists
Recommendations Recommendations by friends, family, alumni, etc
School visits Locally held info sessions, visits to recruitment
staff in the applicant’s school etc
Social media Social media sites such as Facebook, Twitter, etc
Website University websites

We can see that personal recommendation plays a big role in study choices. However, it is topped by various online channels – online searching, university websites, various portals, and social media as information source accounts for 50% of applicants. Arguably, advertisements can be added to it, as most advertisements listed were various online campaigns. Alternatively, school visits, education fairs, and other face-to-face interactions with university marketers play a relatively minor role. It is also interesting to note that various portals (dedicated to informing students of global studying opportunities and various national portals aimed at marketing a country as a whole) are essential school tools, totaling 13%.

While having a strong, online presence and personal recommendations have maintained their edge as preeminent channels for generating interest with Nigerian students, web portals have become vital. In the past three years, while online and recommendations have declined, portals have risen from nearly non-existent to being responsible for one out of ten applications. Additionally, social media has experienced a similar, albeit smaller, surge in becoming an indispensable resource for recruiting in Nigeria. However, it is worth noting that the specific social media channel is important to consider as Nairaland generates more results than Facebook, which can be attributable to the uptick in advertisements as schools are homing in on the relevant websites. With regard to this factor, it’s important to note that organic and paid search engine results are trailing behind specialized websites (which reinforces the growth of portals). Recruiting agents have delivered consistently in the 6-7% range for a more conservative and stable approach.

Here are the main takeaways from this article:

  • As online channels play an increasing role, ensure your website and online marketing are up to scratch. There is a symbiotic relationship between the various websites regarding students from Nigeria. You must present the best digital representation possible to get the best students.
  • The admission rate of Nigerian students at 8% is far below the average (our data shows that the average conversion rate hovers somewhere over 25%). There are a lot of applicants, but only a few of them get accepted. With an already considerable and increasing number of applicants, it is imperative to check your admission process to ensure your ability to select and offer the best applicants efficiently.
  • Check your presence in both dedicated portals for international students and national portals. Portals, overall, enjoy popularity among Nigerian students and brings results.

In conclusion – looking at the application numbers, overall trends, and enrolment rate of Nigerian students, it is evident that applications by Nigerian students are not only a fixture for admission departments but will continue to grow. As such, the importance of employing a good strategy to both process applications and promote your courses in the proper channels and with the right target group cannot be understated. It’s generally essential to offer promising students quickly, in the Nigerian market, it is requisite. Here at DreamApply, we have over a decade of experience, knowledge, and data that we can apply to improve your strategies both in Nigeria and anywhere else.

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