Ukraine: Why So Many International Students Were In The Country

The Russian invasion of Ukraine has caused a mass exodus of civilians, including thousands of international students from Africa, Asia and the Middle East.

Ukraine was home to over 76,000 foreign students, according to government data from 2020.

Nearly a quarter of the students were from Africa, with the largest numbers coming from Nigeria, Morocco and Egypt.

India easily accounts for the highest portion with over 20,000 students.

The students - studying medicine, engineering and business - are an important part of the country's economy.

But, as Russia launches the biggest European invasion since the Second World War, thousands of them have fled, hundreds are still trapped, and many remain uncertain about the fate of their education.

What was the attraction of Ukraine?

Ukraine has long appealed to foreign students, which can be traced back to the Soviet era, when there was a lot of investment in higher education and a deliberate attempt to attract students from newly independent African countries.

Now, Ukrainian universities are seen as a gateway to the European job market, offering affordable course prices, straightforward visa terms and the possibility of permanent residency.

"Ukrainian degrees are widely recognised and offer a high standard of education," said Patrick Esugunum, who works for an organisation that assists West African students wanting to study in Ukraine.

"A lot of medical students, in particular, want to go there as they have a good standard for medical facilities," he added.

Desmond Chinaza Muokwudo, a Nigerian student who had been based in the city of Dnipro, said he was attracted by the relaxed admission requirements and the cheap cost of living compared to other European cities.

He enrolled at the University of Customs and Finance less than three months ago.

Many courses are offered in English, but the 30-year-old was undertaking a preliminary Ukrainian language course, before moving on to study international relations.

"I was a welder back in Nigeria and I needed an education to accomplish things," he told the BBC from a hostel in Poland after fleeing the conflict.

"Ukraine was the best option for me."



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