UK universities face financial strain as Nigerian and Indian student numbers drop


Several UK universities face potential bankruptcy due to declining numbers of international students from India and Nigeria, the most populous countries in Asia and Africa respectively. This decline may be linked to UK policies prohibiting foreign students from bringing their dependants. In 2023, India and Nigeria accounted for the highest numbers of immigrants to the UK. The policy, implemented by Prime Minister Rishi Sunak’s government to reduce migration, has led Indian and Nigerian students to seek educational opportunities elsewhere.

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The impact of this policy is evident as universities grapple with financial crises, with about 15 institutions considering job cuts and course reductions. Additionally, the Home Secretary has proposed eliminating visas that allow students to work in the UK after graduation. Consequently, universities are facing challenges such as fewer staff, lower quality education, and limited options as they strive to reduce costs.

University authorities warn of impending budget cuts, potentially including the termination of entire courses and the dismissal of academic staff. Factors contributing to the decline in international student enrollment include economic crises in Nigeria and visa crackdowns in India. Despite tuition rates remaining stagnant for over a decade, universities have relied on revenue from international students to offset losses from domestic students. However, projections indicate a significant drop in overseas admissions in the upcoming fiscal year, particularly from Nigeria.

John Rushforth, Executive Secretary of the Committee of University Chairs, expressed concern over the crisis, noting that bankruptcy is a realistic possibility for some institutions. To mitigate financial challenges, universities are considering discontinuing certain courses, with humanities subjects and languages bearing the brunt of the losses. Economic turmoil in Nigeria has also impacted recruitment efforts, prompting universities to make difficult decisions amid financial uncertainties. Despite efforts to navigate the crisis, challenges persist, raising concerns about the long-term viability of UK universities.

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