Over the past several decades the number of students participating in study abroad programs globally has increased substantially. Today, over three million engage in educational activities for varying periods of time in countries other than their own. Much of the research focus on this type of activity has been on the key players involved—certainly the students themselves, but also the institutions that host them.
Increasingly, questions are asked about the potential benefits of international study, and or how international student experiences might be enhanced to better serve the needs of all parties involved. Within the realm of international relations, far fewer questions have been raised regarding the prospective benefits and drawbacks of international student mobility to the countries most directly engaged in this activity, whether in financial terms, acquisition of expertise, or the promotion of bilateral relations more broadly.
In a recent paper published in the Revista Brasileira de Política Internacional (RBPI, vol. 63, N. 1, 2020), Canadian researcher W. E. (Ted) Hewitt examines precisely these types of questions with respect to student mobility programming between Canada and Brazil. While both are large economies that share important positions politically within the Americas, their level of interaction in international fora has remained relatively modest. Still, there are some signs of engagement on a number of fronts, including science and technology promotion and interchange, particularly in the wake of the two countries’ signing of the 2011 Canada-Brazil Agreement for Cooperation in Science and Technology.
Notable as well has been Canada’s involvement in Brazil’s Science without Borders (SwB) programme as a recipient country. Between 2012 and 2016, over 7000 of the nearly 100,000 Brazilians students receiving funding through this program attended post-secondary institutions in Canada.
The paper offers an in-depth examination of the impact of the SwB programme on both Canada and Brazil, through the lens of their efforts at bilateral relationship building. The findings reveal concrete benefits to the students involved—in terms of expertise and credentials acquired–and notably to the Canadian institutions and communities that receive them—related to income from tuition and living expenses.
The paper also posits at least evidence to suggest that this form of engagement has served to enrich interactions between Canada and Brazil in ways that will ultimately benefit their broader objectives vis-à-vis each other as nations. In part, this is related to the establishment of a large cohort of students from across Brazil who have become familiar with Canadian society and its educational system and can serve as effective ambassadors for enhancing trade, investment, and even tourism between the two countries in future.
The paper concludes with a call for further research on the impact of international education for relations between other nations.
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Hewitt, W. E. (Ted). (2020). National interests and the impact of student mobility: the case of Canada and Brazil. Revista Brasileira de Política Internacional, 63(1), e008. Epub July 20, 2020.https://doi.org/10.1590/0034-7329202000108