British High Commissioner to Nigeria, Richard Montgomery, has stated that the United Kingdom (UK) government’s new policy on the restriction of foreign student visas is aimed at managing the pressure on social services for scholars.
Montgomery, who spoke in an interview with the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) in Abuja, explained that the policy was not targeted at discouraging Nigerian students studying in the UK.
According to the High Commissioner, Nigerians desiring to study in the UK have a 97 per cent visa approval rate at the moment.
He urged Nigerians to see the new visa regime in the UK in a bigger context, describing it as something that is “really a positive for Nigeria and the United Kingdom.”
“Three years ago, there were 20,000 Nigerian students in British higher education institutions, and last year, the number increased to 127,000. So, we had a five-fold increase in the number of students from Nigeria coming to UK universities.
“We are delighted that UK universities continue to attract the best and brightest from Nigeria. And in the wider context, last year, the UK granted three million new UK visas of various types including students and other visitors.
“Nigerians alone received 325,000 of those 3 million visas. So, more than 10 per cent of the visas from the UK are to Nigerian citizens which is fantastic. It goes back to the fact that the UK and Nigeria have strong people-to-people links.
“The policy change is about people who are doing non-research degrees coming to the UK as undergraduates, or for a one-year master’s degree programme, and who decide to bring their dependents.
“We have had a very significant rise in the number of people coming from all around the world, not just from Nigeria. This has caused some strain on the UK. Sometimes it is difficult to find good accommodation as a student and there is real pressure on housing and social services for students.
“If you looked at it three years ago, only 1,500 dependants of students were coming to the UK from Nigeria, but now it was 52,000 last year.
“I am just trying to put it in proper context, that this is an adjustment. The words that are being used in the media to describe the situation are misrepresenting. We are making an adjustment that enables us to manage the demands on services in university towns and elsewhere.
“Nigerians are very successful in acquiring visas. We have a 97 per cent approval rate and so that is the big context,” Montgomery said.
He expressed the UK’s pride in its research institutes and higher education which, he said, were listed among the top hundred universities in the world
The higher institutions, he said, are very open to students going to study.