Windhoek-Despite the high cost of living in a foreign country, attributed mainly to the ongoing recession, coupled with many other challenges, over 1,500 international students have registered at the University of Namibia (Unam) this year.
The university says accommodation difficulties, the language barrier, the lack of funding opportunities, peer support and adjustment challenges, as well as the lack of immediate friends and family feature as some of the hurdles international students face.
Out of 24,759 students registered at Unam for the 2017 academic year, 23,213 are Namibian and the remaining 1,546 are international students.
Aune Sam, the international students coordinator in the Office of the Registrar revealed that the majority of international students at Unam (1,373) are from the SADC region. She said the largest number of international students are from Zambia and Zimbabwe.
Sam said the remaining 12 SADC member countries are all represented at the institution. These include students from Kenya, Burundi, Ghana, Liberia, Nigeria, Uganda, Ghana, Congo Brazzaville, Rwanda, Egypt, Cameroon, Sierra Leone and Sudan.
From beyond the continent, she said there were Asian students from as far away as China, Taiwan and the Philippines, as well as from India.
“Regular representation from European countries predominantly comes from Finland, Germany, Belgium, Netherlands, Sweden and Britain. Across the Pacific Ocean, we have students from American Samoa, Ascension Islands, Brazil, Cuba and the United States of America,”
She said there are numerous pull factors that make Unam a university of choice for students in the region, the continent and even from further afield.
“Namibia is a well-recognised country, mostly because of her peace and stability. Most parents want to have their children at universities where they are assured that their studies will be completed without any socio-political interruption.”
Besides, proximity to home country, a reasonable cost of living, the positive reputation of the university and the currency of Unam’s qualifications, are among the reasons why international students consider studying in Namibia, she said.
Simon Namesho, public relations officer at Unam, said: “Our website and positive word of mouth do a lot of marketing for us… Our international graduates, visiting lecturers and exchange students, our alumni do not only match up very well with any graduate trained elsewhere globally, but are also well recognised in their home countries and this motivates parents to send their children to Unam.”
In addition, he said some students are here through Memoranda of Understanding between Unam and various universities around the globe. He pointed out that some international students also attend Unam as their parents or spouses work in Namibia.
He said the country, besides her friendly people, offers great biodiversity and a multicultural society, making her the perfect terrain for much-needed studies, especially on multilingualism.
International students enrolled in Unam programmes are mostly studying on a full-time basis and are registered for a wide range of qualifications, from certificates to postgraduate programmes.
“We also have students from Angola and Mozambique, who are doing English courses at the Language Centre. These are students who want to do full degree courses, but since they were not taught in English at high school, they usually take a full year course in English studies,” Sam explained.
Interestingly, Sam added that the courses taken differ from country to country, as many students from Zambia apply for Bachelor of Economics or Business Administration, as well as Bachelor of Arts degrees, majoring in social work or psychology, whilst students from Angola and DRC tend to go for science, engineering and economics-related courses.
Students from South Africa registered mostly for human and animal health-related courses, while those from Botswana were more focused on animal health, library science and education.
She said exchange students from the USA tend to do nursing science, education and history, compared to exchange students from Finland, who are commonly enrolled in social work and psychology courses, while students from Germany tend to focus more on business and economics.