Richard Montgomery, the British High Commissioner to Nigeria, clarified that the United Kingdom’s decision to restrict the ability of international students to bring dependents with them from 2024 onward was not targeted at causing harm to Nigerians. Rather, it was implemented to protect UK infrastructure in light of the recent surge in international students bringing their family members from various countries.
During a meeting with Vice President Kashim Shettima at the State House in Abuja, the British High Commissioner addressed the issue and offered an explanation on Wednesday. He acknowledged the remarkable five-fold increase in both the total number of international students and the number of Nigerian students studying in the UK within a span of just three years.
While describing this growth as a “fantastic success story for our universities,” Montgomery emphasized that accommodating such a large population with their families becomes challenging when it comes to finding suitable housing and providing necessary services. Therefore, the decision to limit dependents was a measure aimed at safeguarding UK infrastructure and ensuring that resources are allocated efficiently.
The clarification from the British High Commissioner seeks to address concerns and provide context to the UK’s policy change regarding international students’ dependents. The decision, although impacting Nigerian students as well, is positioned as a pragmatic step to maintain the quality of education and support available to all international students while mitigating strains on infrastructure and services in the UK.
He further clarified, “Last year (2022), for example, the UK granted three million new visas, of which 325,000 of those visas were Nigerians. So, Nigerian visitors constitute over 10 per cent of the people coming to London and the UK.
“On the issue of student visas, I’ll also like to provide a context. The number of Nigerian students coming to the UK has increased five folds in the last three years. It’s a fantastic success story for our universities. And we are really delighted that so many Nigerians are coming to the UK.
“The issue about restrictions on people bringing dependents, that’s partly not because of Nigeria but many parts of the world, many more students are trying to bring their dependents with them.
“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 secondly, we’ll have to manage our visitors’ number, we have to manage migration in and out of the UK just as the Nigerian Government does.”
In May, the UK Home Office said it will restrict foreign students from bringing family members with them effective 2024 to stop people from using the student visa as a backdoor channel to work in the UK.