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Student Mobility in Latin America.

Student migration starts from the principle of searching for well-being and the consequential achievement of professional competence, intellectual and economic opportunity.

Today a student cannot be satisfied with the education received in the university nor with the practical training in his or her city of residence. The speed of multiculturalization of today requires that the professional masters the largest number of international experiences to be able to insert him or herself with ease into the competitive labour market.

To study in a foreign country is considered as an export of the educational services. According to the Correo of UNESCO, the commercial value of this export of higher education for the year 2000 reached 27 million US Dollars.

With regard to this education market, the USA occupies first place with a participation of US$ 7 million. In Latin America the investment is less, however, as in any part of the world the role of the exchanges in higher education is fundamental for the development of nations, for social and technological advancement, and thereby the integration among nations and all that is related with cultural and intellectual mobility.

Before the 1950’s Latin America was a continent of immigrants, not emigrants. The migration of Latins to the exterior was minimal at that time. Those who migrated were generally from the affluent class who travelled preferably to Europe to study or for snobbism.

Today the changes in the market, the so called globalization and the economic opening of the markets, are the key points for the professional to expand beyond his or her borders and to study abroad or at least to have an experience in another country. It is not simply a question of good will but an opening of the mind, and to experience an opportunity.

In Latin America, countries like Venezuela, Cost Rica, and Mexico have been the historical receivers of border immigrants. The Colombians in Venezuela constitute the largest professional continent of emigrants between Latin American countries. There are also many Uruguayans, Chileans and Paraguayans in the Argentine.

The USA and countries such as France, Germany and UK stand out world wide as the countries which receive the largest number of students. "If we consider that the total professional and technical migration coming from Latin America is over 5,000 persons, 14 out of every 18 go to the USA." Adella Pellegrino, "Reflexiones Sobre la Migration Calificada" (March 2000). (Thoughts on Qualified Migration).

The different programs and attempts to extend the mobility networks have to confront the different inconveniences related to the characteristics of the region. The economic impediments, the internal problems in the countries, the social and economical instability are part of the agenda that the students , institutions or programs have to overcome every day.

All the formalities for the immigration and the obtaining of visas, and the requirements of the foreign university, such as the equivalencies of studies, are other difficulties that have to be resolved.

Some of the most important institutions and programs in the field of Latin American mobility:

1. The Agencia Espanola de Cooperacion International (AECI) - the Spanish Agency for International Cooperation - carries out very important work in the region with reference to alternative ways of reinforcing investment in human capital and improving productivity, with special emphasis in the poorest countries in the region. For more information visit

AECI address: Avda. Reyes Catolicas, 4 28040 - Madrid, Spain
Telephone: 583 85 71 - 583 83 03 - 583 84 37
Fax: 583 83 10/11/13


MUTIS, these are scholarships awarded by the Ministerio de Asuntos Exteriores - Ministry of Foreign Affairs - through AECI. The Mutis program started in 1992 following the agreements of the II Cumbre Iberoamericana de Jefes de Estado y de Gobierno de 1992 - the Second Summit Meeting of the Latin American Heads of State and Governments, 1992.

The MUTIS scholarships are for postgraduate studies: doctorates, masters, thesis, and specialized courses.

For the 2001/2002 session 400 scholarships are on offer, of which 360 are for Latin American and Portuguese candidates for doctorate studies in Spanish public universities, and 40 for Spanish candidates for postgraduate studies in Latin American and Portuguese universities.

The necessary documentation can be obtained from the Embassies, Consular offices, Cultural Centers or the Offices of Spanish Cooperation which are registered in the country of origin of the candidates. Only Spanish candidates may contact the AECI; Avda. Reyes Catolicos, 4 28040 Madrid, Spain.

Programa de Cooperacion Universitaria (PCI) - University Cooperation Program - (Old Intercampus, was created in 1997). This program operates in collaboration with the AECI, it awards scholarships for exchanging docents, students and administrative staff for short periods of time. It also has the objective of drawing Latin American and Spanish institutions together. Further information is available in each university and Spanish Embassies in the countries of origin. Convocations are annual. AL/E indicates flow from Latin America to Spain and E/LA indicates the opposite.

Just to show the importance of the program : in Argentine during seven years there was an exchange of 5479 universitarians, of which 2616 were students and Argentinian professors.

IBERCUE - Programa Iberoamericano de Cooperacion Universidad-Empresa - Latinamerican Program of Cooperation between University and Private Enterprise - its intention is to contribute to the creation and development of efficient and permanent relationships between the University, the Science and Technology systems and the world of the private sector, and the implementation of cooperative activities which will strengthen the relationship between the scientific and production communities in Latin America. For more information visit:

Cooperacion Cientifica con Iberoamerica MEC - MAE - Scientific Cooperation with Latin America - (AECI Program). This program was created to promote joint activities within the framework of "scientific research projects for Spanish and Latin American technicians and scientists, as well as the transfer of knowledge through post graduate courses."

CYTED: Programa Iberoamericano de Ciencia y Tecnologia para el Desarrollo - Latin American program for Science and Technology for Development - This "horizontal" international program for scientific and technological cooperation was created in 1984 . At present 7,500 scientists from 26 countries are integrated into 46 thematic networks. The CYTED promotes the mobility of Latin American scientists and experts, and interregional cooperation. For more information visit:, or telephone the General Secretary at 34915316387.


2. The European Union has created the ALFA program for academic cooperation with Latin America.

ALFA Program Office
36, Rue Joseph II, 4th Floor, B - 1000 Brussels
Te: 32 2 219 04 53
Fax: 320 2 219 63 84

European Commission: Directorate of External Relations
Directorate: Latin America
Unit: Horizontal Affairs
Address: Rue de la Loi, B - 1049 Brussels
Fax: 32 2 299 39 41

ALFA - America-Latina Formacion Academica - Academic Training for Latin America - is a program created by the European Commission on March 10, 1994. The priority activity of ALFA is special training destined to create high level resources within the framework of regional cooperation. Among its principle objectives is the encouragement of cooperation between the institutions of higher education in Latin America and Europe, thereby creating networks for the implementation of joint academic activities; the mobility of postgraduates and university students, as well as other activities which contribute to regional integration.

It is important to know that individuals cannot apply personally, only through the university networks (there are at least 3 in Europe and 2 in Latin America).

ALFA consists of three subprograms:

Subprogram A: cooperation between institutions of higher education;

Subprogram B: postgraduate exchange;

Subprogram C: student exchange.

One can apply for participation in the ALFA program throughout the year. Requests are evaluated twice a year, in June and December. For further information visit:


3. OEI - Organizacion de Estados Iberoamericanos para la Education, la Ciencia y la Cultura - Organisation of Latin American States for Education, Science and Culture: this organization promotes the PIMA program through its Higher Education Cooperation Program. Its internet address is

PIMA - Programa de Intercambio y Movilidad Academica - Program for Academic Exchange and Mobility - The objective of this program is to strengthen inter-university cooperation and encourage the development of the Latin American dimension of higher level education, through the development of multilateral higher level student exchange projects in the region. The 2001 - 2002 cycle is now closed. For further information about application procedures consult:


Who can apply ?

High level students who have 50% of their courses completed and approved, who study at universities which participate in the PIMA project, whose studies are pertinent to the thematic areas on offer and who apply at their university, comply with the requirements of PIMA and their university.


4. Other programs

Fulbright Commission: This is a North American Government program, which has benefited more than 250,000 people from more than 140 countries, of which a large percentage came from Latin American countries. For further information visit:

Le Fundacion Carolina - The Carolina Foundation: This foundation was created in the year 2000 and develops two principle activities: scholarships and the "visitors" program. Information about the scholarships can be found at: These scholarships are for the Latin Amercan community with the exception of Spain. The foundation headquarters are in Madrid in the Agencia Espanola de Cooperacion International - Spanish Agency for International Cooperation: for further information visit:


It is important to search for inter-university agreements for each university, for example the Universidad Complutense de Madrid,,

or the exchange scholarships between countries, for example the exchange scholarships for research between Canada - Latin America and the Caribbean,

The Latin American "Brain Drain"

Very often the social difficulties of Latin America impede students and professionals to dream of a better future, and therefore they dream about how to leave their country to work and feel valued, rather than sacrificing themselves for their country and make there way in their own land. Migration starts from the desire to search for well-being.

The young of Latin America prepare themselves in their country of origin, completing primary school, secondary school and then before finishing their degree, many begin searching for student exchanges with other countries. When economic resources permit the young graduates search other horizons which may offer better infrastructures. The number of Latin American brains which leave is in the hundreds and they can be found in all the countries of the world.

The "brain drain" is stimulated principally by the demand from the scientific and industrial complexes of the developed economies. As the offer is excessive in the under developed economies, and the demand strong in the industrialized countries, this favours the mobility of qualified workers.

The Colombian Case

At the present moment, Colombia lives a social crisis that is reflected in the quantity of brains that have left. During the last three years, 2,6 million Colombians travelled abroad, of which 600,000 have not returned, and it is estimated that of 100 Colombians that stay abroad 20 are part of the brain drain.

The problem is complex, the country invests in its citizens, and when they leave this constitutes a loss in the investment in the human resources of that country. According to Rodrigo Acosta, analyst for National Planning, "Last year Colombia lost about US$ 2.000 million due to the emigration of persons with three or more years higher education. In other words Colombians who have been educated and trained for 15 or more years."

Another aspect is related to the country’s need for qualified professionals who can take on the challenges of economic recovery. With the brain drain, the search is made difficult and the opportunities diminish. Equally the country constantly feels the negative costs due to the drain or loss of its growth engines.


The TOKTEN program

The TOKTEN program facilitates the transfer of knowledge from expatriates through a short stay in their country of origin to enable them to share and offer the knowledge which they have acquired abroad. TOKTEN consultants fulfill a mission which otherwise would be assigned to an international expert. The work is voluntary, which helps to reduce the costs since the professionals do not need time to adapt to the cultural environment nor the language. For more information and to register as a TOKEN candidate, contact



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