Universities ‘must think long-term’ when investing in Latin America

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While the market could become one of the most stable in the world amid political tensions surrounding China – and potential “boom and bust” with India – an investment in collecting students from different countries in America Latin could be extremely useful.

“There are opportunities that we didn’t have before, like the Turing scheme, and we can’t just think about recruitment,” said Neville Wylie, deputy director of internationalization at the University of Stirling, during from a panel at the BUILA 2022 conference. in Wales.

“We have to think about a portfolio of activities and engagement, and we have to reinvest in this market in a way that we have never done in the past.

“We welcome a relatively small number of students [from the region]but there is much more to institutions on an intellectual level than in other places in the world,” he continued.

Fiona Brown, head of international student recruitment at the University of Manchester, also pointed to the “attractive” student market in Latin America.

“It’s interesting, largely around the caliber of students who come to the UK – and there’s a range of subjects for which there’s demand and interest,” she told the panel. .

“The picture is probably slightly different across humanities, engineering and biomedical subjects…but holistic engagement is important. When there is a strong, long-standing connection through research, it is possible to think creatively about research funding,” she explained.

“There are opportunities that we did not have before”

However, talking to News from the PIE After the panel, Gary Coulter, head of international market development for North and South America at the University of Bristol, said that while Latin America is an interesting market, reality makes it more difficult in terms recruitment.

“The return on investment is much worse in Latin America compared to other parts of the world, especially in India or China, and most universities, even if they want diversity, must act rationally and with commercial sense,” he told The PIE.

Despite the practical difficulties that recruiters may encounter, there is an encouraging feeling that the UK also scores well in terms of student opinions of its study prospects.

“There is a perception that the UK offers a good quality education, and they are eager to come especially for postgraduate studies,” Angelica Careaga, executive director of CASE Latin America, told delegates – joining virtually.

Many Latin American countries have experienced a change of government or may soon, such as Brazil, and are financially quite stable, such as Peru and Ecuador, she pointed out, suggesting that universities need to be more creative in their approach to recruitment.

“That feeling of building something lasting and of mutual benefit is more important than ever, even if it starts small,” Brown said.

She also touched on the fact that Peru has recently stood out in a “surprising way” for Manchester – perhaps due to the current stability of the economy and a stable political landscape after a year slightly tumultuous election in 2021.

However, Coulter re-emphasized the idea of ​​new partnerships and creating sustainable, long-term partnerships and student recruitment channels is more difficult than one might think.

“A lot of universities have good connections in places like Brazil, a lot of them through their academics or their staff, the same in Colombia and Mexico. Everyone tends to go to the same regions and do the same – no one speaks to funding agencies with one voice,” he said.

“There is a perception that the UK offers a good quality education”

Coulter suggested to the panel during the ensuing Q&A that it might be possible to create a single body where recruitment efforts could be coordinated, which would achieve more diversity with less hassle – by particularly in terms of recruiting locations, which for Latin America, can often be extremely difficult work to set up and not yield much success.

Careaga also pointed out that there are other ways to recruit students that are not just the usual channels for visits and partnerships – using those who have already gone through the process themselves.

“A lot of former students come back and have success stories – you can use them,” she insisted.

“While many alumni stay in the UK after graduation, looking at higher education routes and the like, some are also returning to Latin America – and they can help spread the word.”

She also noted that the UK has experience with Europe in developing curricula, but in Latin America they are “eager to push more for dual degrees or collaborative research” – and after Covid, it will be easier to go online to recruit.

“It will be easier to use the online experience in a way that is still engaging, while strengthening the partnerships you already have,” Careaga added.

The availability of scholarships in the region was also discussed during the panel. While Careaga hailed that one-year master’s programs would be beneficial for those who cannot access the scholarship system, it is also an issue faced by many students in the region.

“Mexican students, for example, do not have [access to] fund government scholarships and need to consider opportunities to save their own money or even sell their cars. I know a lot of people did it just to come to the UK,’ she said.

“The scholarship market has been squeezed by policy changes, particularly in Mexico and Chile,” Wylie said.

“There has been a change of political government in Colombia with impacts on the stock markets, perhaps the overthrow of the government in Brazil with the elections this year, we could see a more sympathetic government coming – it is, after all , the government that produced science without program borders. It’s a checkerboard image on the scholarship front,” he explained.

“It’s a checkerboard image on the stock market front”

Due to the many different economic ecosystems seen on the continent, Coulter said it may be more difficult to secure funding from universities to try to recruit.

“They want people to come in, open up partnerships and focus on those areas, but the reality is universities are on a very tight budget. There are huge barriers to entry,” he said.

“But if you had a body that could just remove all those initial hurdles, that gave you information about funding in those countries, so you could go and negotiate and come back with a broad base deal – universities can really start working in these regions,” he added.

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