BY FRANCISCA CHIEDU OTU
I have seen different videos of students in the UK complaining about life in the UK. I have tried to look the other way, but I think some people may be truly ignorant about coming to the UK using the student route. My post may well benefit those who really don’t understand what they are getting into so they can save themselves the stress of opening the book of Lamentations on YouTube and other social media platforms.
I think some people lied to themselves when they moved to the UK on a student visa. Most people relocating to the UK are well aware they are expected to have at least nine months of their living expenses as the 20 hours work permit can only cater for basic expenses. Coming to the UK on a student visa is not cheap. Most cheap schools charge an average of £12,000. High-end schools cost between £16,000 – £25,000. Now if you are fortunate to get the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) exchange rate of ₦580 to a pound, then your school fees should cost around ₦6,960,000, that’s about ₦7 million for tuition alone. If you don’t get the CBN rate, then tuition should be about ₦11.5 million. This is for just tuition fees.
The UK expects you to show that you have at least £1,334 per month for nine months if you are studying in London, i.e. £12,006 ~ ₦6.9 million. If you are studying outside London you need £1,023 times nine months, i.e £9,207 ~ ₦5.3 million. You are expected to have these funds to sustain yourself in the UK.
In addition to the fees and living costs, you need to pay £363 for the visa fee and an international health surcharge (IHS) which costs £470 per year, but because your student visa is typically for a year and four months, it is prorated, so you might end up paying about £800 or more for IHS. So that’s another £1,200 cost which you will source from the black market as there’s no CBN provision for this. So for visa and IHS budget, another ₦1.2 million. If we add tuberculosis test, flight, and miscellaneous expenses while processing your visa, you are likely to spend another ₦500,000 if you book your flight in advance. Some people spent up to a million naira for the flight alone.
“Japa and new dispensation” is not cheap. If we do the math, an average tuition fee is ₦7 million + ₦5.3 million (living costs) + ₦1.2 million (Visa/IHS) + ₦500,000 (flight & miscellaneous) = ₦14 million. By the way, these are just estimates. You may pay less if you get cheap schools in some locations with fewer economic activities. The location of your place of study is very important, but this is a story for another day.
Now, most people who travel typically have a third of this amount and arrive in the UK thinking they can perform magic. They work tirelessly to pay rent, bills, and school fees, then come online to say people don’t have a life in the UK. I think people should at least be truthful about why they don’t have a life. This is what happens when you live a lie.
UK universities typically request an initial deposit of £3,000, which is 20–25% of the tuition fee. As of last year, the CBN exchange rate for pounds was about ₦500. Some people paid ₦1.5 million and then showed they held the balance of the tuition fee and nine months’ living expenses in a bank for 28 days after making the payment. So if your tuition fee is £12,000 and you paid an initial deposit of £3,000, you just need to show £9,000+9,207 = £18,207 ~ ₦9.1 million. Often, people get this as a loan with an interest rate of 3–5% for two months and pay proof of funds agents ₦700,000 –900,000 for the service. Let’s do the math again, ₦1.5 million (school fees deposit) + ₦700k (POF interest) + ₦1.2M (visa + IHS) + ₦500k (flights/tuberculosis test) + ₦600,000 (initial living expenses) = ₦4.5 million (rough estimates).
Now my calculations are just estimates just to give you an idea of what a “sufferhead” budget looks like. I call it “sufferhead” because people who typically have a budget of ₦4–5 million to move to the UK often end up with embarrassing stories on YouTube. Now when you arrive with your ₦5 million budget, don’t forget you still have an outstanding £9,000 tuition fee. You need to pay £300–600 for accommodation and food. Then you need some time to settle into your studies and get a job. Let’s say you get a job immediately after arriving; you still have an outstanding fee, and you must pay your landlord, transport, and feeding. In the end, you are working back-to-back to meet up. Most end up working more than 20 hours. To be clear, I am giving rough estimates for a student without dependents. You see, for those who come with family, theirs is a different story.
Many students struggle to pay their tuition fees. Some students couldn’t meet up, the university reported them to the Home Office, and they were asked to leave the UK. Some switched to the care visa and abandoned the programme, thinking they would get away without paying fees, which may affect their credit rating in the future. So when I see people lamenting on YouTube, I wonder what they were expecting. They paint the impression that people in the UK don’t have a life. When you do those videos, simply say you don’t have a life because you have unpaid tuition fees and bills to cover. Also, if you come with that popular visa offering minimum wage, you are most likely to work more hours to survive. It is what it is!
This year, there’s a twist to the Japa wave. Schools now ask for a 50–80% tuition fee deposit, and some schools are asking for £5,000–8,000 initial deposit. CBN’s pound rate has increased from ₦500 to about ₦580. What this means is that people need to raise more money to study. There are schools with a £3,000 initial deposit, they will be flooded with applications, but they have their limits. I think it makes sense for universities to increase deposits. I have been wondering why this wasn’t an option. With this, the student numbers may slightly reduce, and at least the whole rhetoric about high numbers from Nigeria may reduce. If your tuition deposit is £5,000, you should budget ₦3 million initial deposit.
If you want to save yourself the embarrassment of making videos of how impoverished you are in the UK, please try to pay 50–70% of your tuition fee and have sufficient living expenses. When I came to study in the UK in 2011, I only came because I had a $30,000 scholarship, so I didn’t have to pay fees and show proof of funds. Since my scholarship sponsor is known to delay payment, I came to the UK with about £5,000 (₦1.2 million because at the time the pound was ₦250). I never worked while studying until I became a sabbatical officer and earned a salary as student president. I got admission in 2010, but I didn’t come because I didn’t want to subject myself to misery and tales of woes. I could have taken to desperation and commenced my studies in 2010 to take advantage of the post-study work (PSW) visa because the UK government announced that they would discontinue the programme in 2012. I just couldn’t bring myself to pay the initial deposit and borrow proof of funds, then regret leaving the comfort of my home country.
I waited until I got a scholarship, spent an extra year saving for my living cost, and with support from friends and family. It was a great experience. So my experience of the UK has remained positive. You can truly have a positive experience in the UK if you don’t come here in debt. You can enjoy the UK if you have the skills to earn a decent income.
Before you join the Japa wagon, ask yourself if you can truly afford it, and say no to self-imposed misery!