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Quest for foreign degrees by Nigerians linked to poor educational system

Abuja, Nigeria. January 19th, 2016 –A new public opinion poll in Nigeria released by NOIPolls has revealed that the poor perception of Nigerians towards the country’s educational system is currently fueling an upsurge in the number of citizens seeking to pursue foreign degrees abroad. This was followed by the perception that foreign certificates are granted higher value than local certificates; and the consideration that foreign environments tend to be more conducive for studies due to the availability of modern educational facilities and absence of incessant strike actions.

Interestingly, 4 in 10 Nigerians (42 percent) claim they know someone (either friend or relative) who studied, or currently studying, abroad; and further identified the United Kingdom (27 percent), USA (23 percent), Malaysia (16 percent), Ghana (12 percent) and Canada (8 percent) as top educational destinations amongst others. Similarly, majority of respondents polled maintained that Nigerians with foreign degrees and certificates fare better than their local counterparts, particularly in terms of academic performance (43 percent), job excellence (50 percent) and societal contribution (39 percent).

These were the key findings from the recently conducted public opinion poll on the Education Sector by NOIPolls in the week commencing January 18th 2016.

Brief Background

Education in the 21st Century goes beyond classrooms, books and chalkboards. It is a tool employed to sharpen the mind, broaden horizons and increase the knowledge of an individual while ensuring his mental is continuously improved upon to enable positive impacts in the society the individual lives in, therefore, the development of any nation is strongly tied to the development and quality of its education. The current state of education in Nigeria is not enviable as it is has consistently ranked low in world rankings and is continuously plagued by inadequate funding and corruption.[1]

The 2012 education for all global monitoring report revealed that 10.5 million Nigerian children of school age were out of school, and the country ranked highest in the world for out-of-school children. Also, according to the World Economic Forum’s Global Competitiveness Report Index, 2011-2012, Nigeria was ranked 140th out of 144 countries in primary education enrolment. Enrolment of children into schools is as low as 12 percent in some states, and 6 million out of the 36 million out-of-school girls world-wide are Nigerians.[2]

Global education is considered as key to economic prosperity and has been highlighted as the best possible way for combatting global poverty, diseases and ensuring sustainable development. The fall in Nigeria’s educational system is not isolated from poor government spending on the Nigerian education sector by successive governments. As at December 2015, it was reported that Nigerians spent N1.5 trillion on foreign universities yearly[3] compared to the N369 billion currently allocated to Education in the 2016 budget.[4] According to a recent study, the top three countries Nigerians seek for education are the United Kingdom, United States of America and Ghana.[5]

Furthermore, the recent Times Higher Education World University Rankings 2014-2015 revealed that Nigerian universities were not ranked among the top best 1000 universities of the world.[6] In the light of the above, NOIPolls conducted a public opinion poll to ascertain the perception of Nigerians on the seemingly increasing desire for foreign education as well as their suggestions for improvement in the sector.

Survey Findings

The awareness of respondents on the upsurge in the pursuit of Nigerians for foreign qualifications was measured and survey findings revealed that almost three-fourth (73 percent) of Nigerians surveyed are mindful of this trend of attaining foreign educational qualifications. Residents from the South-South had the highest awareness level (80 percent) and this is likely connected to the numerous scholarship schemes in the Niger-Delta sub-region sponsored or granted by Multi-National Oil companies operating in the area as part of their Cooperate Social Responsibility (CSR).[7] Results also show that males (76 percent) were more aware than females and the 61+ age group at 83 percent also indicated a higher level of awareness than any other age group.

Interestingly, although it was found that a high percentage of respondents were aware of the increase in number of Nigerian students currently studying or seeking to study abroad, further analysis revealed that about 4 in 10 Nigerians (42 percent) claimed to know someone (relative or friend) who is currently studying or previously studied abroad. On the flipside, slightly more than half of the respondents (58 percent) submitted to not knowing anyone currently studying or who previously studied abroad. Interestingly, the North-West zone with 56 percent has the largest proportion of Nigerians who claim to know someone currently studying or previously studied abroad; and this may be attributed to the high number of students who were sponsored by the immediate past government of Kano state to study abroad.

Findings also revealed the top destination for Nigerian students seeking to study abroad; as 27 percent of the respondents who admitted to knowing someone indicated they were in the United Kingdom. This reinforces the 2012 report which found that there were at least 17,542 Nigerian students studying in UK universities and about 30,000 Nigerians who had previously studied in the UK. Interestingly, this number accounted for 7 percent of the total UK University population at the time.[8]

At 23 percent, the United States is ranked second in terms of educational destination where Nigerian students are currently studying or have previously studied. In 2014, the United States Embassy noted that 7,318 Nigerian students studied in more than 700 universities and colleges in the US, at undergraduate and post-graduate levels. Other countries listed in the poll include Malaysia (16 percent), Ghana (12 percent), Canada (8 percent), Dubai (5 percent) and India (5 percent) amongst other countries.

Furthermore the results showed that 60 percent of respondents blamed the country’s perceived ‘poor educational system’ as the top reason for the growing appetite for foreign degrees by Nigerian students. Issues mentioned include incessant strike actions by academic & non-academic staff groups, irregularities in the academic calendar, environment and facilities that are not conducive for learning, inadequate staff and welfare, over population as well as corruption in the sector.

Also, 11 percent of the respondents indicated that foreign certificates have premium value in Nigeria as opposed to Nigerian certificates, and this may be influenced by the perceived discrepancies experienced by applicants during job interviews as most organizations seem to favour foreign degrees more. This seems to highly impact the desire and drive to obtain foreign degrees just to have an edge above their equals in the employment market.

Respondents were asked to gauge the quality of Nigerians education as opposed to foreign education on three prongs ‘Academic performance, Job Excellence and Societal Contributions’. 43 percent of the respondents were of the opinion that Nigerians who studied abroad have stronger academic performances compared to their local counterparts; and taking into consideration the various learning opportunities, conducive learning environment, flexible learning patterns, and modern learning facilities.

Similarly, a large proportion of the respondents (50 percent) affirmed that Nigerians who studied abroad and hence have the opportunity to intern/work in highly skilled and professional organizations exhibit more excellence on the job compared to their colleagues at home who probably went through school without any internship opportunity or formal on-the-job trainings prior to entering the employment market.

Education broadens the horizon of the mind which makes it a crucial sector in the development of any nation and its economy. In this regard, 39 percent of respondents were of the opinion that Nigerians who studied abroad contribute more to the country’s development on the long run compared to their peers who studied in Nigeria. Some pointed out to the simple consideration of exposure which studying abroad affords them.

In response to what can be done by government to improve the quality of education, the need to ‘Improve educational facilities’ ranked highest with 25 percent, followed by the need to ‘adopt a better educational system’ (13 percent) amongst others.

In summary, this poll has revealed that 73 percent of Nigerians are aware of the upsurge in the number of Nigerians seeking to travel abroad for studies; with 4 in 10 Nigerians stating that they know someone who studied or is currently studying in the UK, USA, Malaysia and Ghana amongst other countries. They also ascribed this quest for foreign degrees to the country’s poor educational system (60 percent) and the hyped value placed on foreign certificates (11 percent) amongst other reasons. Nigerians who studied abroad are also perceived to be better off than their local counterparts in terms of academic performance, job excellence and overall societal contribution. In view of these findings, respondents suggested that the government should improve educational facilities (25 percent), adopt a better educational system (13 percent) and employ qualified teachers and lecturers (13 percent) in order to improve the quality of education in Nigeria.

In conclusion, Nigeria loses billions in foreign exchange annually through Nigerians studying abroad. These are funds if invested in the country would contribute to improving the educational sector. There is also the issue of brain drain arising from many of the students who often opt to remain in the countries of studies, thus depriving the nation of their skills and knowledge which could have been deployed to moving the country forward. There’s need for collaborative efforts in addressing the issues facing Nigeria’s educational sector. Funding remains a big challenge, as the current budgetary allocation to the sector remains a far cry from UNESCO’s recommendation of 26 percent budget to education. We definitely need new thinking, innovation and creative solutions to tackling the issues head on.

Survey Methods

The opinion poll was conducted in the week of January 18th 2016. It involved telephone interviews of a random nationwide sample. 1,000 randomly selected phone-owning Nigerians aged 18 years and above, representing the six geopolitical zones in the country, were interviewed. With a sample of this size, we can say with 95% confidence that the results obtained are statistically precise – within a range of plus or minus 3%. NOIPolls Limited is the No1 for country specific polling services in West Africa, We conduct periodic opinion polls and studies on various socio-economic and political issues in Nigeria. More information is available at


This press release has been produced by NOIPolls Limited to provide information on all issues which form the subject matter of the document. Kindly note that while we are willing to share results from our polls with the general public, we only request that NOIPolls be acknowledged as author whenever and wherever our poll results are used, cited or published.

NOIPolls hereby certifies that all the views expressed in this document accurately reflect its views of respondents surveyed for the poll, and background information is based on information from various sources that it believes are reliable; however, no representation is made that it is accurate or complete. Whilst reasonable care has been taken in preparing this document, no responsibility or liability is accepted for errors or fact or for any views expressed herein by NOIPolls for actions taken as a result of information provided in this report. Any ratings, forecasts, estimates, opinions or views herein constitute a judgment as at the date of this document. If the date of this document is not current, the views and content may not reflect NOIPolls’ current findings and/or thinking.

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