Demand for international education is skyrocketing with Nigerian students. Research has shown that up to 90% of eligible Nigerians are interested in pursuing a university degree overseas, and the UK is their current favored study destination, followed by Canada and the United States (ICEF Monitor, May 2022). This trend is being fueled by Nigeria’s large, youthful population, and compounded by economic uncertainty at home.
While the increasing number of Nigerian students who want an international education is a great opportunity for higher ed insitutions, Nigerian students are encountering specific issues when it comes to paying for their education fees in a major currency such as the US dollar or GB pound, which will ultimately impact institutions who accept Nigerian students.
Here is what universities need to know about payments from Nigerian students.
Are you a Nigerian student or payer? Check out our payment FAQs.
Update August 2023: Devaluation of the Naira
In June 2023, the Nigerian government took steps to significantly re-adjust the exchange rate by allowing the Naira to devalue. The aim is to make more foreign currency available to banks in Nigeria to help meet demand.
What has changed so far?
- The Naira has devalued significantly.
- The official (Central Bank of Nigeria/CBN) rate and the parallel rate are now similarly priced.
- There may be volatility as new rates adjust, and new processes are established.
- Flywire has seen an increase in payments going through using the parallel rate.
How will the devaluation impact payers?
- Accessing foreign currency at the official rate will be more expensive: Students/payers who could previously access the Central Bank rate using Form A will see that the exchange rate available to them is now significantly more expensive; their Naira will buy less foreign currency.
- Expect more delays: For foreign currency to become widely available within the banking system will take a long time, and there is still a long backlog to access it through these channels.
- Parallel rate may be more attractive: The parallel rate now offers a similar price as the Central Bank rate, with much more convenience, so it may be the most effective way to access currency to make payments.
Why do Nigerians experience challenges with foreign payments?
Nigerian payment issues ultimately come down to a shortage of foreign currency in Nigeria. This shortage was caused primarily by recession in Nigeria, and amplified by a problematic rollout of new Naira notes that created knock-on disruptions to other banking services such as access to foreign currency.
Why are there two Nigerian exchange rates?
The official rate (or “CBN rate”) is set by the Central Bank of Nigeria. This is the rate typically displayed on search engines. However, because the supply of foreign currency cannot match the demand, the Central Bank of Nigeria can only provide foreign currency for limited use cases and limited values. Despite international education being a valid use case allowed by the Central Banks, this rate is often unavailable to Nigerian payers and accessing foreign exchange (FX) rates can be tricky.
In the wider economy, for most uses and values, there is a parallel exchange rate for foreign currency.
What is the parallel rate and how does it work?
The parallel market is a catch-all term for exchanging currency outside of the Central Bank rate. It is sometimes called the “black market” or “aboki (friend)” rate. This is how foreign currency is accessed on a day-to-day basis for most Nigerians.
It is a free floating rate set by supply and demand, and is accessed through a host of different channels from traders to dedicated apps, or in-person transactions. Historically the parallel rate has been significantly more expensive than the official rate, however since June 2023, the official rate has seen a significant devaluation which has resulted in the two rates becoming more interchangeable.
How do students access the Central Bank Rate?
In order to access the Central Bank of Nigeria exchange rate, a student must apply for their allocation of foreign currency; which they do through a “Form A” application. Given this is a much cheaper exchange rate than the parallel rate, the vast majority of students expect to pay their university via a Form A application.
What is Form A?
How students complete a Form A application
Student receives invoice/offer letter - if using Flywire these should include our bank details.
If using Flywire - Student is redirected to Flywire site to complete payment installation.
Student completes Form A application on the Trade Monitoring System and is given an AF (Application Form) number.
Bank receives the application.
Bank reviews application & accepts/rejects.
Bank creates a funding ID and takes this to Central Bank & bids for allocation of FX.
Bank pays beneficiary in GBP.
Bank debits student in Naira using prevailing rate on that day.
Flywire reconciles and pays out daily batch. In event of refund - Flywire refunds to payer’s bank.
How much can students apply for through a Form A application?
The values accessible through Form A are subject to change, and the banks can set their own lower thresholds, but as an indicative guide:
- The maximum allocation for education is $15,000 per semester.
- Form A can also cover travel allowance up to $2,000 per application, 2x a year.
How long does a Form A application take to be processed?
The process takes about four months from a student applying through to a university receiving payment. This has slowed significantly in the last year due to an increase in demand for foreign currency, coupled with a decrease in reserves at the Central Bank.
Flywire’s top tips on Form A applications
Students should apply as soon as possible.
It is crucial that all documentation entered into the Trade Monitoring System matches when a student completes their Form A application (invoice, beneficiary bank details, amounts must all match).
When the student’s bank has received the destination currency from the Central Bank, they will deduct the Naira from the student’s account using that day’s exchange rate - so the student must have sufficient funds in Naira on that day (include some contingency in case the exchange rate changes).
To find out how students can use Flywire as the beneficiary in their Form A application, click here.
To find out how students complete the Form A application on the Trade Monitoring System, read this guide.
What are the benefits of using Flywire as the beneficiary in the Form A applications?
For students, the benefits of using Flywire as the beneficiary on their Form A application include the ability to track payments so they can see when the funds have been released and then received by their university. Students also benefit from quicker refunds, should they need one.
For universities, managing payments from numerous territories heavily impacts team resources. Using Flywire as the beneficiary on Form A applications means that they can almost eliminate student enquiries about Form A payments, as students have access to Flywire’s regular payment status updates and around-the-clock multilingual support. With Flywire, finance teams also benefit from real-time payment tracking, automated reconciliation and self-service reporting.
Why would Nigerian students use the parallel rate?
Typically the parallel rate is used to obtain foreign currency if a student is unable to access Form A; for example, because they need to make an urgent or low value payment, or have exceeded their allowance.
Historically, when the two rates were closer together, students might have used the parallel rate and CBN rate more interchangeably. While this is not typically the case, it may become more common following the government’s action to bring the two rates closer together.
How do students access the parallel rate using Flywire?
Flywire can convert Naira into the destination currency using the parallel rate; the payer simply needs to make a domestic payment (card or bank transfer) to be converted into a payment to the university.
Payers may also choose to access the parallel rate themselves through their own network (e.g. friends or family) and can make the payment to Flywire in a major currency.
Can’t Nigerian students use cards to make international payments?
In short, no they can’t. Before 2015, international card payments were possible up to $150k a year, but Naira cards had very low limits ($20) until December 2022 when international transactions were completely prohibited. Flywire’s Global Payments team has extensively tested international card payments and none have been successful since they were banned.
What can institutions do for Nigerian students?
Nigerian students are very well informed about the political and economic situation in their country; about the exchange rates and the Form A process.
Form A may no longer be the only affordable payment option, but exchange rate volatility will likely continue for some time. If students are using the Form A process to pay their tuition fees, they will likely face continued application delays, and a possible shortfall of Naira in their account that will need to be rectified quickly to complete the Form A process.
Overall, Nigerian students will continue to find making payments to their university extremely stressful. The stress is compounded when they fall—through no fault of their own—into university debt recovery processes because of the delay in Form A approval or disbursements.
A few things institutions should consider to better support Nigerian students:
- Open a communication channel with your Nigerian students about their situation before they enter the debt recovery process, and use a conversational approach.
- Amend offer letters to give Nigerian students the information they need to submit their Form A application, and provide sufficient time for the lengthy Form A completion process.
- Consider reviewing your payment or debt recovery processes to allow leniency for Nigerian students if they are in open communication with the finance team and can provide evidence of submitting their Form A application in good time.
What has Flywire done to help Nigerian students?
We regularly speak to institutions, payers and Nigerian banks to build a deep understanding of the context, issues, and possible solutions for Nigerian payers in what is an extremely volatile economic situation.
We are working with our Nigerian Global Payments Network partners on new initiatives to help alleviate some of the issues Nigerian students experience which include allowing Flywire to be the beneficiary on Form A applications, extending our payment wait time, and giving Nigerian payers information and support.
Want to learn more about Nigerian Payments?
We invite you to check out the following resources to learn more about how Flywire supports Nigerian payers: