UK HE should diversify African recruitment

November 13, 2013

A need for UK higher education institutions to entice new African student markets, in the face of stagnating enrolments from Nigeria and an over-reliance on traditional markets, was among the issues raised at this year’s African Student Recruitment Conference (ASRC) in London, UK.

The agent roundtable also allowed educators to learn more about African students

Welcoming a number of agents from Africa, as well as HE institutions from the UK, Ireland, Switzerland and Canada, the event organised by Worldview Group aimed to engage delegates in issues and opportunities surrounding African student recruitment.

Matthew Hornshaw, Managing Director of MGH Educonsult in the UK, kicked off the day of plenary sessions by highlighting markets potentially worthy of an international student recruitment drive.

Referring to data compiled by the Higher Education Statistics Agency (Hesa), which illustrates a plateau in Nigerian numbers – the main African market for UK institutions – since 2010-11, he stressed that recent changes to immigration policy and the rise in costs for international students potentially caused enrolments from this country to stagnate in the UK.

Libya was identified as a potential recruitment market, with HE overseas designated as a big priority in the country recovering from civil war and the government setting aside UK£90m (US$143m) for education, training and scholarships. Language school association English UK held a successful trade mission in Libya earlier this year.

Other emerging markets outlined by Hornshaw were South Sudan – an unstable country with a demand for overseas education and money available – and Equitorial Guinea – a nation with few university options and availability of funds.

The general consensus among UK providers was that South Sudan and Equitorial Guinea might be potential markets in the distant future, while some saw value in Libya. Meanwhile, Lida Hughes from Infinity Business College, Ireland, noted that Malawi, Botswana and South Africa are emerging markets for Ireland as students no longer need to obtain visas before arrival.

Another trend among African students noted by delegates was a tendency to favour short, vocational courses that offer good chances of career progression. “With internet usage spreading across the continent, students are fast becoming aware of their options,” said Patrice Ngnanda from ISS Network in Cameroon.

Hornshaw also added that competition for African students is strong. “During a discussion with Glyn Williams from the Home Office in 2012 when I was part of a forum to discuss whether the latest changes in immigration regulations had impacted on international student numbers, I clearly had evidence that many students from Africa are now considering other options than the UK for their overseas study destination,” he explained. 

In his experience, he said, Nigerian students in particular are increasingly enrolling in other countries possibly because of issues including the removal of the post-study work visa. With this in mind he outlined the importance of diversifying product portfolios, and gave Transnational Education (TNE) and Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs) as examples.

Hornshaw also touched upon the importance of developing partnerships with local organisations in Nigeria, including agents. “In an ideal world, an education provider looking for agents would work with a locally known, trusted partner,” he said.

Overall, delegates were satisfied with the event, with Samantha Addingi from B&S Education in Nigeria commenting, “This year, the ASRC was very interactive and informative. More institutions attended and I would say the organisers are quite innovative by making some positive changes to make the conference better. I am looking forward to the next one.” Meanwhile, Hughes from Infinity Business College said, “I found it is very interesting – I have learnt a lot of African culture, history and more importantly, a lot of information regarding student recruitment.”

The next London event will take place on November 5-6, 2014. 

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