This week, Folabi Obembe, Managing Director of Worldview International Group, talks about African student recruitment in Canada and discusses what could come of the 2015 UK general election in terms of visa rules

“For the past six years, we've held the African Student Recruitment Conference in the UK. The idea was to bring institutions that are interested in Africa together; to learn about recruitment in Africa and also to meet with those that can help them locally in Africa because you can't work in Africa without working with Africans.

We had a couple of Canadian universities that came to attend the conference in London. In the feedback, they made a request that they wouldn't mind if this conference can come closer to them. So we decided after two years to have the same type of conference in Canada, bringing the conference closer to Canadian schools and making it more accessible for them.

Two years ago, we had 25 Canadian institutions considering Africa, but now there are 64 universities and schools considering Africa. So that tells us that there's a shift happening. It was very amazing this year to see that Canadian schools and universities are actually looking to Africa because there has been a shift in the market. This is possibly because their traditional markets have started to develop their local education and they've seen quite a lot of international institutions going into their major source markets to establish universities. I can give Malaysia as an example, and also Singapore, which used to be a traditional market for Canadian schools.

The good thing about Canada right now is after the student has finished studying, they can stay there for two years and work, so that's encouraging a lot of students. Going back to Africa immediately after you study without work experience doesn't give you a chance to get a job, but if you are able to stay in the country and have something added to your CV, apart from the fact that you have a qualification, it will help the students get a better job. So it's a marketing tool for Canada and that has increased the numbers of demand coming from Africa.

Currently, in terms of the Canadian education system, we have a lot of high school students going for A-levels or equivalent, and we've seen an increase in master's programmes because most African students complete their first degree in their home country and then want to do the master's abroad. The programmes they're going for include business and engineering.

We've also seen China competing now in West Africa for students because China has almost everything. They have the biggest industries and that’s what students have started to look at, particularly in terms of subjects like engineering, because a lot of engineering work goes on there so they can get work experience.

Africa is unpredictable, you can do the research, but things do change. Nigeria will always be at the top as an outbound student market. The reason why is because there are few education establishments which can actually absorb the numbers of students that want to study. It's a country where if you have good qualifications, you can get a good job, so everyone wants to have good qualifications and the demand is just too high.

Nigerian students will always want to come to the UK, but if the visa rules remain the same, where students have to return back home after they study, it's not going to help. The UK election next year will tell, over time, if we'll have an impact on what is going to happen on immigration. If the election is focussed on immigration then any government that goes in there next year will look at doing something about it. So if they decide to tighten the immigration law, then of course students will be like, “okay, you don't want us” and they will go somewhere else. But if they loosen the immigration rules then, of course, Africa will always prefer the UK to study because of the high quality of the education.”

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