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Nigerian students surge as EU numbers collapse

 Image: LordRunar, via Getty Images

More UK university starters came from Nigeria than the whole of the EU in 2021-22

The number of students from Nigeria starting courses in the UK has overtaken the number coming from all the countries in the European Union combined, official statistics show.

Higher Education Statistics Agency data, published on 31 January, show that the number of first-year EU students in the UK collapsed from 64,485 in 2016-17 to 31,400 in 2021-22. The UK voted to leave the EU in 2016.

While EU numbers declined by more than 50 per cent in that five-year period, the number coming from Nigeria increased steadily—from 5,590 to 32,945. Just India (87,045) and China (99,965) had more students heading to the UK to begin courses in 2021-22.

While the Indian numbers increased by more than 30,000 compared with 2020-21, Chinese numbers plateaued.

Postgrad boom

Today’s figures also show that a growing proportion of students are studying at postgraduate level—with a growing number of those students coming from overseas.

Some 29 per cent of students at UK higher education providers in 2021-22 were enrolled on postgraduate courses, up from 24 per cent in 2017-18, the Hesa statistics show. In 2021-22, the number of new enrolments on postgraduate courses rose 9 per cent year on year to reach almost 527,000.

Of the total 820,310 postgraduate students enrolled in 2021-22, 45 per cent (372,500) were from outside the UK. This proportion has grown from 35 per cent in 2017-18.

The data show that more than a third—37 per cent—of non-UK domiciled postgraduate students were studying business and management subjects. A further 19 per cent were studying engineering, technology or computing.

Meanwhile, the number of enrolments on language courses in the UK—across both undergraduate and postgraduate levels—has continued to decline steadily.

According to Hesa, the number of people starting courses classified as “language and area studies”—which includes all modern foreign languages—fell from 96,705 in 2019-10 to 87,795 in 2021-22.