Nigeria surpasses India in UK student dependent tally

The UK government links this surge in dependents partly to the overall increase in the number of main applicants from these countries.

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The United Kingdom has identified Nigeria as the country with the highest number of dependents accompanying international students over the last four years. The government report, which reveals a significant increase in the number of dependents from Nigeria, has drawn attention to changing patterns in international student migration to the UK.

As of September 2023, the number of dependents from Nigeria was recorded at 60,506, marking a substantial rise from just 1,427 in 2019. This increase of 59,079 is notable and indicates a significant trend among Nigerian nationals studying in the UK. 

“There were 60,506 dependants of Nigerian nationals in the year ending September 2023, an increase of 59,079 compared to 2019 and 9,435 more visas issued than to main applicants in the same period,” UK said.

Previously, India held the record for the highest number of dependents, but with 43,445 dependents as of the third quarter of 2023, it now ranks second after Nigeria. In comparison, India’s figure stood at 2,127 in 2019.

“Part of the increase in dependants is linked to the increase in main applicants, but there have also been large increases in dependants of Indian and Nigerian nationals.

“Indian nationals had the second highest number of dependants, increasing from 2,127 to 43,445 in the same time period,” UK said.

A sharp rise in Indian, Nigerian student dependents

The UK government linked this surge in dependents partly to the overall increase in the number of main applicants from these countries. The report emphasized the sharp rise in dependents from both Nigerian and Indian nationals. Notably, the number of visas issued to Nigerian dependents surpassed those issued to the main applicants by 9,435 during the same period.

The overall number of dependents, as well as their proportion in relation to all sponsored study-related visas, has shown an upward trend since 2019. The UK government suggests that this may reflect a shift in the demographic composition of international students. 

“This may reflect a change in the composition of students coming to study in the UK with more students coming for higher education compared to before the pandemic,” the UK said.

More individuals pursuing higher education in the UK could imply a higher likelihood of these students being older and having established families, which could account for the increase in dependents.

India is top origin country of UK migrant students

Further data from the report highlights that a total of 486,107 individuals from India, China, Nigeria, the United States, and Pakistan migrated to the UK for study purposes by the end of September 2023. India leads this group, followed by China, Nigeria, Pakistan, and the United States, in that order. Among these nations, Pakistan showed the highest percentage increase, surging up to 33 percent to 33,150.

While Indian nationals saw a modest increase of 5,804 (a 5% increase) compared to the previous year, their numbers have almost quintupled since September 2019. They account for over one-quarter (27%) of all sponsored study visas to main applicants. 

“Indian nationals in the year ending September 2023, a small increase of 5,804 (+5%) compared to the year ending September 2022, but their numbers are now nearly five times higher than in the year ending September 2019.

“Indian nationals accounted for over one-quarter (27%) of all sponsored study grants to main applicants in the latest year,” the report stated.

Chinese nationals, the second most common nationality among sponsored study visa recipients, were granted 108,978 visas, comprising 22% of the total. However, there was a 7% decrease in grants to Chinese nationals compared to the previous year. Together, Chinese and Indian nationals make up half of all sponsored study visas.

“Chinese nationals were the second most common nationality granted sponsored study visas in the year ending September 2023, with 108,978 visas granted (22% of the total).

“Grants to Chinese nationals decreased by 7% compared to the preceding year. Chinese and Indian nationals together comprised half (50%) of all sponsored study grants,” the report said.

Nigerian nationals were issued 51,071 sponsored study visas in the year ending September 2023. This number is similar to the previous year but represents an approximately eightfold increase from 2019.

“Nigerian nationals were issued 51,071 sponsored study visas in the year ending September 2023, similar to the previous year but around 8 times the number in the year ending September 2019,” said the report.

In response to these trends and broader migration patterns, the UK announced restrictions in May 2023, set to take effect from 2024, that will bar foreign students from bringing family members into the country. This decision follows concerns over the escalating net migration figures, which reportedly hit 1 million, prompting calls from Tory MPs for Prime Minister Rishi Sunak to address the soaring numbers.

The evolving landscape of international student migration to the UK, particularly the notable increase in dependents from countries like Nigeria and India, reflects broader demographic and policy shifts. These changes are likely to have significant implications for the UK’s education sector and its approach to immigration policy in the coming years.

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