Africa student mobility is starting to soar, say scholars

Continent’s youthful population will soon require many more university places, with high numbers likely to study outside their home country

September 22, 2015
Young woman using tablet PC

Booming numbers of young people and a shortage of university places are likely to turn Africa into a key market for internationally mobile students over the next 30 years, a conference has heard.

There are currently about 200 million people aged between 15 and 24 in Africa – a total set to double by 2045, according to the United Nations, explained Chika Sehoole, head of the University of Pretoria’s department of education management and policy studies, at the European Association for International Education’s annual conference, which took place in Glasgow from 15 to 18 September.

Rapid urbanisation – a key driver of participation in higher education – is also likely to push up student numbers, added Professor Sehoole, who said that it won’t be long before Africa will have 80 cities with more than 1 million people, as well as four “megacities” of more than 10 million people (Kinshasa, Lagos, Cairo and Johannesburg).

With the continent’s 2,450 post-secondary education institutions already struggling to find enough places for applicants, students would become increasingly mobile in search of a degree, he said.

“African students are already the most mobile students in the world, with 6 per cent studying outside their home country, although 50 per cent do so intra-regionally,” he said.

Olufemi Bamiro, former vice-chancellor of the University of Ibadan, in Nigeria, said that his country saw many well-qualified students go abroad.

“For every 10 students who pass the national entrance exam, five have to go elsewhere,” he said.

Both scholars agreed that Africa should develop a clearer internalisation strategy for education – an agenda largely overlooked by the UN, which published its 17 sustainable development goals in September.

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