Tough visa rules cut number of Kenyans seeking to study in US
Posted Wednesday, July 18 2012 at 19:28
An international undergraduate at the London School of Business spends an average of Sh2.6 million (£19,750) per year including living expenses while a master’s degree costs as much as Sh3.3 million (£25,000) per year.
An undergraduate or master’s degree in Kenya costs between Sh200,000 and Sh400,000 per year depending on the university.
Local universities, whose numbers have increased over time, introduced new courses traditionally limited to public and foreign universities, tilting the ground against foreign colleges.
Not only have they embraced technology — making it more convenient for learners to follow classes and submit their work from remote locations — they have also partnered with foreign universities to make it less compelling for Kenyans to pursue higher education abroad.
The number of Kenyan students enrolling in US universities dropped sharply in the past eight years as Washington tightened immigration rules and college fees rose above those charged by competing foreign destinations, latest data shows.
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Enrolment of Kenyan students in United States colleges fell 13.3 per cent in 2010 – the highest in an eight-year decline that started in 2003.
The Institute of International Education (IIE), a non-profit organisation that tracks the number of international students enrolled in American universities, found that 4,666 Kenyans chose to study in the US in 2010, down from 5,384 in 2009.
This is the lowest number registered since the 1998/1999 academic year when 4,945 Kenyans enrolled in US colleges.
Student visas issued to Kenyans in Nairobi and from other locations to pursue higher education in Australia in 2010 also fell by 20.83 per cent to 745 down from 941 in 2009.
The two countries got less Kenyan students even as alternative destinations such as the United Kingdom, South Africa and Canada registered increased enrolment, indicating that Kenyans’ appetite for foreign education has not waned.
George Njenga, the deputy vice chancellor in charge of research and quality assurance at Strathmore University, said transnational education has continued to grow and has become an important source of foreign exchange for many countries.
Foreign students contributed approximately Sh1.7 trillion ($20 billion) to the US economy in 2010, 53.5 per cent of it from China, India, South Korea, Canada and Taiwan, according to IIE.
“Asia has particularly become an important source of foreign students for Western universities due to the recent expansion of the middle class and more spending capability in countries such as China, India and South Korea – making countries like Kenya less attractive,” said Dr Njenga.
According to him, the number of local institutions of higher learning has grown to around 62 from around 22 in 2008, reducing the pace of emigration.
“There are more universities in Kenya, giving parents a cheaper alternative than foreign colleges,” he said.
Neighbouring Uganda and South Africa are offering cheaper alternatives that have made their mark on the flow of students.
The South African High Commission in Nairobi has, for instance, recorded a steady increase in the number of Kenyans seeking student visas in the past three years.
The High Commission issued 711 visas last year up from 598 in 2010, indicating a strong growth in the number of Kenyans seeking to study in Africa’s largest economy.