The British High Commissioner to Nigeria, Paul Arkwright, has said that 53 Nigerians have been awarded Chevening scholarships for 2018.
Mr Arkwright said this at a dinner organised for the beneficiaries of the scholarship and Chevening Alumni in Abuja on Monday.
He told News Agency of Nigeria that the beneficiaries were selected out of no fewer than 6,000 applications, adding that the number of awardees had increased from 43 in 2017.
“Last year we had 43 and this year it is an increase of 10, to 53 which is great; it means that the standard is very high because over 6, 000 people applied for Chevening Scholarship this year.
“To get 53 scholarships this year is a real bonus and it is wonderful that so many young, intelligent and bright Nigerians want to study in the UK.
“Over 6,000 applications, this is the highest number anywhere in the world actually.”
He said that 40 per cent of recipients were females and that five out of the 53 scholarships were awarded to people with disabilities.
The envoy disclosed that only one person with disability had been awarded the scholarship in the last 20 years in Nigeria.
“We have increased the number of women from 33 per cent to 40 per cent; our target next year is 50 per cent.
“It is so important that Nigeria encourages girls to go into education. There are 12 million Nigerian children who do not go to school and the majority, are girls and women.
“It is therefore really important that we do everything we can to encourage girls to get the education they need.”
He expressed hope that Nigeria would get a good proportion in the increase of the scholarships to 100 in Africa as recently announced by British Prime Minister, Theresa May.
Mr Arkwright also said that no fewer than 15, 000 Nigerian students were currently studying in different universities in the UK, adding that a lot of people were taking advantage of British universities.
“I would like to increase that number. Britain is a very welcoming place for students. We like to encourage more people to apply,” he added.
Tinuoluwa Adelegan, Senior Communications Officer of the high commission and a past recipient of the scholarship, said the main focus of the awards was to develop young leaders globally.
Ms Adelegan was awarded a scholarship at Leeds Business School for the 2016/17 academic year.
“The opportunity Chevening scholarship gives is to experience global best practices; it is not just about the UK but people get to mix and learn from others.
“There are leaders that are willing to make a difference, and that is why with Chevening you must come back to your country to make the difference.”
She encouraged more women to apply for the scholarship and advised the new scholars to make the most of the opportunity given to them through the scholarship.
One of the scholarship awardees, Lilian Umeakunne, who is also a crop farmer, said she got a scholarship to study Food Security in the University of Glasgow, Scotland.
“The process of applying for the scholarship takes you through a path of self-discovery and you do not have to know anybody to apply.
“I had to search within, know what exactly I wanted to do with my life to try to answer the four essay questions, gave examples of the work I had done, the impact and results achieved during the interview.”
Ms Umeakunne said she had spent more than six years working with women farmers and hoped to apply her new skills to address challenges faced in the agriculture sector.
She added that she was a first-time applicant.
Another recipient, Damian Ohienmhen, who is a co-founder of Nugenesis Energy, was also awarded a Masters scholarship in Sustainable Energy at the University of Glasgow.
Mr Ohienmhen said he had applied for the scholarship for three consecutive years before being finally rewarded.
“I was fortunate to be selected for the interview; I actually applied three times in a row and I was always rejected.
“No one tells you why but I realised that my application became stronger each time I applied and I am glad because I grew as a person and my desire to study in the UK gained greater clarity.
He advised aspiring applicants and those whose applications were not accepted not to be discouraged.
The Chevening Scholarships Programme commenced in 1983 as the Foreign and Commonwealth Office Awards Scheme and is funded by the British Government’s Foreign and Commonwealth Office.