Ireland growing as destination for African students
The Republic of Ireland is emerging as favourite destination for African students, thanks to its competitive course fees and relatively affordable cost of living compared to other countries in the western world.
Student numbers increased by 61% over the past three years, growing from 800 in 2018 to 1,300 students in 2020. The biggest growth was in 2019 when those enrolling jumped to 1,230, up from 800 the previous year, representing a growth of 53%.
The figures however slumped in 2020 when only an additional 70 learners from the continent joined Irish higher learning institutions, informed by outbreak of the Covid-19 pandemic, figures exclusively shared with The PIE News by a Kenya placement agency indicate.
According to Farook Lalji, director of Nairobi-based Koala Education Consultants, the trend is also informed by a shift from Canada, where Africans are increasingly frustrated by a “high visa rejection rate”. This has led to students seeking more accessible destinations in English-speaking countries where both fees and living costs were friendly, he added
“Most institutions have excellent courses that embrace innovation”
“Ireland’s proactive student policy makes it a very viable destination, and being part of the EU makes it very strategic as travel and work opportunities are now even better. It has always been a tech hub for Europe and houses some of the largest companies such as Google, HP and Microsoft.
“Innovation is something that Ireland is well known for, and most institutions have excellent courses that embrace innovation,” Lalji noted.
The country was as such certain to eat part of the European market for African students, if it continued to be “better value”. Other destinations including Australia will also be affected by its offerings and friendlier visa process, he opined.
“Part time work and post study opportunities are part of the offering. African students have already made their mark on Irish society by being smart and hardworking,” Lalji claimed.
Ireland had managed the Covid-19 pandemic well and access to vaccines has been good, meaning that full education activities could resume earlier than most countries, he observed.
He added that Irish educational institutions are “open part time and students can still have short face to face learning time”.
“Students have been very happy with the visa process and the onshore experience has been very good, and while online learning is still required, we see this continuing till the end of 2021.”
Despite this African students constitute only 3% of the 32,000 foreign students currently enrolled in Irish universities, according to figures by the Irish Universities Association. Nevertheless the percentage is higher than that of South America, Oceania and non-EU Europe.