The British High Commissioner to Nigeria, Richard Montgomery, has said Nigerian students coming to the UK has increased fivefold in the last three years.
Montgomery was reacting to his country’s decision banning international students from bringing family members with them starting from 2024.
He noted that the policy was to control the inflow of migrants and avoid overburdening the country’s housing infrastructure.
“Many more students are trying to bring their dependents with them but it’s not always possible to find the housing and services to meet all the needs of all our existing student population; we’ll have to manage our migration in and out of the UK,” Montgomery told State House Correspondents after he emerged from a closed-door meeting with Vice President Kashim Shettima at the Presidential Villa, Abuja.
Wednesday’s meeting comes one month after the new British diplomat to Nigeria handed his letters of Credence to former President Muhammadu Buhari on May 18.
On May 23, the UK Home Office said international students, including Nigerians, would no longer be able to bring family members with them starting from January 2024.
It also announced that overseas students would be stopped from switching from the student visa route to a work visa until their studies have been completed.
The decision has been greeted with mixed reactions from international students, schools, and some British lawmakers who argued that the regulation would aggravate labour shortages in critical sectors such as healthcare and threaten the country’s global standing as a top destination for international talent.
But in response to a question from PUNCH, the British High Commissioner gave reasons for the regulation saying, “I think there are two issues here. The first is, it’s not always possible to find the housing and services to meet all the needs of all our existing student population.”
“And second, reasonable people would accept that we have to manage our visitor numbers and we’ll have to manage our migration in and out of the UK just as the Nigerian government would do.
“That issue was not raised in the meeting (with the Vice President) just now. But I would like to put the media debate about it in a broader context. Last year (2022), for example, the UK granted three million new visas, of which 325,000 were to Nigerians.”