Ebola slows Nigerian student travel

07, October, 2014

The Ebola pandemic, which has killed thousands of West Africans, has had some impact on agency business and outbound student mobility in Nigeria, Study Travel Magazine has learnt.

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Although the country was recently announced as free of new Ebola cases, some agents suspect that embassies are denying students from obtaining visas on the grounds that they might be contagious, which could dent agent profits in the short-to-medium term. Nigeria is a significant source market for Higher Education (HE) overseas, particularly in the UK and Canada.

“Every year we recruit more than 100 students for institutions overseas and getting them a visa is usually easy, but recently after the surfacing of Ebola business has turned defective,” said Nurudeen Owodunni, Director at Glide Global Consult in Nigeria. “Many embassies are strategically rejecting our students without good reason, and we know they don’t know how to tell each student to do the Ebola virus test before the visa can be granted. Demand for foreign education is high in Nigeria as the system of education in Nigeria is deteriorating, so if the embassies want to make it mandatory for students to do the Ebola virus test they should come out openly.”

The universities themselves are also rejecting Nigerian students in some parts of the world, according to Ibitayo Bayo Francis, Managing Partner of Nigerian agency Franice-Fort & Associates, who cites examples in Russia. “Some students are also subjected to thorough checking at the port of entry where some embassies are delaying the issuance of visas for Nigerians,” he said. “Some schools have to extend their resumption date due to the delay.”

Reports from universities however are mixed, with some witnessing a decline in Nigerian numbers. At St. Clair College in Canada, “I can tell you that our own Nigerian numbers are definitely down this autumn, and I would expect the same for January 2015,” said Peter Bondy, Director of International Education and Government Relations. “Visa approval rates for Nigeria are never good, and I expect they will now get worse before they get better.”

Meanwhile in the UK, Ramanjeet Singh, Head of Education and Quality Assurance at West London College of Business and Management Sciences, Manchester Campus, said, “We were affected by the humanitarian crisis and have not been able to recruit from Nigeria for the new academic year. In past years, the college had students in double digit numbers from Nigeria who studied and then progressed on to universities in the Northwest.” Some students were not able to go home over the summer break due to news of the disease spreading to the country, he added.

Others were concerned about the January 2015 intake, including Bethany Draper, Undergraduate Recruitment Coordinator at University of King’s College in Canada. Meanwhile, Mike Henniger, International and Managing Director of Global Operations at Thompson Rivers University in the same country said, “[We have seen] more than 100 students from Nigeria and had a robust intake this autumn. However, we have seen an increase in delays of students getting their medicals for their study permits as it seems there is a bit of a waiting out approach to see what happens there. I think the bigger impact will be felt in January.”

Other institutions haven’t seen an impact at all, including Rotman School of Management, part of the University of Toronto in Canada. According to Assistant Director Michael Moses, it takes Nigerian students four-to-six months to secure a visa and therefore applied a considerable amount of time before the Ebola outbreak. And at the University of Hertfordshire, a spokesperson said that Nigerian numbers actually went up in the September intake and that visa refusal levels are at a normal level and probably owing to a lack of evidence of finances.

And some agents were also less concerned than others, including Yomi-Edun Olayinka from the agency Stephil Consults. “Though people were strongly advised to desist from direct contact with suspected persons, the country was not in a close down,” she said. “We may also need to commend the effort of the Ministry of Education for adequately informing the international community of developments.”

For full reports from Nigerian agents on how the Ebola crisis has affected business, read the Industry Issues section in the December issue of Study Travel Magazine.


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