Send students to Latin America to address mobility “disconnect”

Published 26/09/2022

Universities around the world, especially from the Global North, should send students to Latin America to study, especially considering how many students from the region they receive, a consultant has said.

During a panel on international student flows at the annual QS Americas conference, held at the Universidade de Vila Velha in Brazil’s state of Espirito Santo, Sarah O’Sullivan, who heads Latin American operations at the SOS Consultancy, suggested there was “disconnect” in terms of mobility.

“There’s a lot of partnership agreements that have reciprocal mobility built in, and a lot of the time the European universities, from my experience, will receive Latin American students but won’t necessarily send students over here,” O’Sullivan told delegates.

“I would urge universities here to challenge your partners. Why aren’t they sending them? Why aren’t they sent in? What is the issue? Do students in these universities in Europe know about your offer? Do they know the strength of research?” she questioned.

Additionally, O’Sullivan made clear that research and the international office have their own problems within institutions, especially when it comes to communication; one that, if solved, could lead to greater mobility both ways.

“I would urge universities here to challenge your partners. Why aren’t they sending [students]?”

“What I see is, a lot of the time, a great disconnect within institutions between the research office and the international office. Often the research office doesn’t know what the international office is doing. There needs to be a much greater connect, because if there’s mobility there and there’s a basis for mobility there, it should be used.

“If it’s not being used, I think we need to hold our parties to account and within partnerships have strategic one year, three year, five year goals,” she added.

On the universities’ side, José Fernandez, secretary general of the Universidad Externado in Colombia, insisted that South America needed to be “more global” in its approach, both in recruitment and in an educational geopolitical sphere.

“Citizens of South America should bear thinking about how to be more global in our countries in order to be able to speak to the other parts of the world; not just dialogue with the biggest countries or universities, but also the smallest ones that don’t feel really comfortable doing it. And I do think this about recruitment,” said Fernandez.

The first QS Higher Ed Summit: Americas annual hybrid conference not only saw discussions about recruitment. Panels were also held talking about Sustainable Development Goals, the newest rankings, and successful international partnerships.

On the topic of where “issues lie” between the Global North and Global South, panelists agreed that while those partnerships appear on the increase, the South will play a “major role” – and they will need to happen on more level terms.

“It depends pretty much on the type of collaborations you want to establish. I mean, if it’s a collaboration regarding research, it pretty much comes down to the type of research that is being carried out,” said Alessandro Mini, vice rector of international affairs and research at non-profit private education group CEU Universities.

“I can lead it to some extent, but it’s driven by the researchers. So they come to me and they say, ‘listen, I want to establish a connection with this university’, which is either in India or in other similar countries, or it’s in North America, for example. So when it comes to that type of collaboration, I don’t see much of a problem.

“Citizens of South America should bear thinking about how to be more global in our countries”

“I see a problem, however, when it is other types of collaborations; whether it’s collaboration that looks for exchange in students abilities or dual programs and all that. And then you see that there is sometimes some sort of a close-up from some universities, depending on where you’re established, where you rank,” he explained.

He furthered comment that getting agreements signed becomes difficult because of the types of partners universities look for: those on the same level. Thus, establishing clauses that are “unacceptable for universities in other parts of the world”.

During the conference, QS announced the rankings for Latin America’s universities for 2023, which includes 428 institutions.

Once again, the Pontificia Universidad Católica de Chile was announced as the region’s top performing institution, with Universidade de São Paulo and Universidad de Chile close behind in second and third place, respectively.

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