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Nigerian students face tough times in UK following unification of exchange rate; tuition fees increase by 60%

Jul 12, 2023 #National News

The Naira equivalent of tuition fees for Nigerian students living in the UK has increased by over 60 per cent following President Bola Tinubu’s decision to unify the nation’s multiple exchange rates. 

The naira has fallen from N471/dollar to N750/dollar and N589.4/pound to N957.2-1015/pound since the Central Bank of Nigeria floated the Naira at the Investors and Exporters’ Window of the foreign exchange market.

Commenting on the development, a Nigerian student residing in Manchester, Adejoro Deborah told Punch

“This policy is affecting those of us here and even intending students. My sibling has had to forfeit her admission because of this policy.

“Many students have fallen victim to online scammers just because they want to buy pounds, a friend of mine, for example, was a victim of third-party purchase as the banks at home are not dependable.”

Another Nigerian student studying in Leeds explained that the major challenge was that many kept their tuition fees in their naira account at the former rate.

The student said; 

“Now they have to start looking for more money because the rate has gone up. If the official rate is not different from street rate, so what’s the essence of waiting for several weeks for your bank when you can just get it from third-party platform. It has only put more pressure on the students to look for more money.

“If you put N5m in your account in March when the rate was around N560/£, that means it will pay around £9k tuition fee, but by July, the N5m will only be able to pay around £5k since the rate is now around 1k/£, so that’s where the real problem is. You need to start looking for an additional £4k. That’s the challenges many students are facing.”

Another Nigerian, who is currently studying at Liverpool John Moores University, told the publication that he became stranded after the school withdrew his access to the school portal after failing to raise the required 4,800 pounds to complete his tuition.

The stranded student who revealed that he is only allowed to work for 20 hours a week as a student, added that he can’t get a better job because prospective employers are demanding proof that he is allowed to work as a student.

He said;

“The school has withdrawn my access to its platform. As a result, I can’t check the results of my last exam. Everything is done via the platform. I cannot also access my official email given by the school. I can’t attend both online and in-person classes again. It is very frustrating, I am completely shut out.

“In fairness to the school, I was given several deadlines which I missed. I could not pay because I was unable to raise enough funds to buy foreign exchange. The exchange rate is very high.”

Another student who shared a copy of a letter that had been addressed to him giving him a final deadline to pay the outstanding tuition, said he almost lost his student visa before borrowing the money from friends in Nigeria. 

The letter sent by the Head of Registry Services of the school read; 

“According to our records there is an outstanding balance of £4800 on your university tuition fee account. LJMU has advised you of this situation via emails to both your LJMU and personal email addresses.

“Despite this correspondence, the debt remains outstanding and accordingly, we are now arranging for you to be withdrawn as a student of the University. If this happens, UK Visas and Immigration will be informed that you are no longer a student at LJMU.”

An IT Project Management student at Teesside University also disclosed that while she did not benefit from the official rate initially, she still has to pay more now.

She said; 

“When I got in initially, I converted at the rate of N920-935 thereabout. But after the CBN reforms, it has been a nightmare. The highest I did a while ago was N990. But today, it is about N1008, if not more.”

Another Nigerian student studying at Strathclyde University, said the new exchange rate might make him drop out of school. He disclosed that when he started his Ph.D program, his budget was between N33m –N35m for the entire programme but it has now increased to N60m. 

He said;

“This new reality has called for a review of the whole plan entirely. Everything has to reset at the end of the year.

“My year is ending in October/November but I now have to review everything. I am running a Ph.D. programme and the cost is 20,000 pounds a year. When we were using Form A and the official rate was about N600, it was about N11m.

“Now, I will be looking at N20m for the second year and N40m in total for my remaining two years.

“This is causing me to rethink my plans, because I can’t spend that type of money on this. N40m is a lot, especially on those at home that are sponsoring this, it doesn’t sound reasonable. This will impact how I will continue with my course.”

Another student simply identified herself as Shalewa said; 

“When I started schooling in London in 2017, pounds was about N300 or less. I am still in school and now I had to pay N1,000 for one pound. 19,500 pounds to naira means that my mum will be coughing out millions that she should be using for retirement.”

Asides payment of school fees, Proof of Funds is said to be the most problematic part of their student visa application process now.

An education consultant, Oyebode Omolewa, who noted that Proof of Funds shows the UK government that a student has the capacity to take care of themselves while studying, added that the rate is now dependent on when the student submit their visa applications. 

Omolewa said; 

“Proof of funds is the student’s tuition balance plus living expenses. For example, if a student’s tuition is about 15,000 pounds, and they pay 5,000 pounds to the university, their proof of funds will be the 10,000 pounds balance plus living expenses.

“If the school is located outside of London, the cost of living is 9,207 pounds, if it is in London, it is 12,006 pounds. Let’s say we have a 10,000 pounds balance, if the school is outside London which is 9,207 pounds, when you add the two together, you will have 19,207 pounds multiplied by the exchange rate on the day you applied for a visa.

“If it was N1000 on the day it was 19,207 pounds multiplied by N1,000 before it used to be about N580 multiplied by 19,207 pounds.

“PoF has almost doubled. This is likely to affect the number of people applying for study Visas now because if you were planning N15 million initially and now you need about N6 million extra if you don’t have it, you will just have to wait until you get it.”

A student planning to leave by August, told the publication; 

“When you calculate PoF now, the least you will get is about N1,100. It has really affected it, and it is not a good one. If you wanted to do a PoF of 19,000 pounds, before now you would need N16 million in your account. But now, you would have nothing less than N24 million for a 19,000 pounds PoF.”

A UK-bound student, who only gave her name as Titi, said when she started her visa processing, PoF was pegged at N600/pound. According to her, she would have fallen victim to the new exchange rate if not that she applied less than a week before the change.

She said;

“I am still good on my PoF, it was still less than N9.8 million. The Friday before the 12th of June, someone asked me to apply for my visa.

“Thank God for countries like the UK where your PoF will be determined based on the exchange rate of the day you apply. That was my saving grace. I applied on that Friday, and by the following week, exchange rate had gone up.

“My PoF was a little above N9.5 million. By the following week, it hit N16 million. I was going to be judged according to the exchange rate on the day of my application, but the thing is if I had applied a little later than I did, my PoF would have risen to over N16 million. I am just an average Nigerian, I don’t have one N6 million, N8 million somewhere. I would have needed about N17 million if I was late.”

A Nigerian student in the UK whose brother is exploring same study route, said her family is currently looking for an extra N7 million to N8 million because of the new exchange rate.

She said; 

“We are on the PoF matter for my brother, and we just have to get more money. He has not yet applied as we are just getting his CAS, this new exchange rate is biting.

Under the old exchange rate, we needed about N6 million to N8 million, but now we need N14 million to N15 million. As of this morning, a pound is N1000+. When it was my turn, all my calculation was at N600, for my brother it is at N1000. There is a N400 difference that is choking everyone. It is financially more demanding and constraining.”

The Form A, which is an application form designed by the CBN to pay for service transactions such as school fees, medical fees, and more, has also been affected by the increased exchange rate. 

An LLM student at the University of Birmingham said; 

“I opened my Form A in April and at the time, I was to pay N1.8m and of course, I was waiting for processing days.

“Now, with the new policy, I need N3.1m. So, even though I have the N1.8m, the money that I require now is twice the amount. So, I can’t have the Form A processed.”

A senior officer of a popular commercial bank also revealed that despite floating of the naira which has highly affected the exchange rate, the bank still receives huge requests of FX. 

The officer said; 

“We still have a long queue and what we do is that we give priorities to our corporate customers. It was expected that the new policy would actually make things better, but it has not. The rates are higher, and people still come in. Some of the Form A requests were even brought in before the new policy was implemented. “

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