Studying at a university abroad is one of the best-sounding options for contributing to educational training and improving job opportunities. At least, that’s the way it has been for years. Everything indicates that the pandemic, although it has thoroughly shaken this and many other facets of life, has not been even remotely capable of snatching the positive part that an education of these characteristics brings.
In the case of Spain, before the arrival of the virus, the trend for the number of foreigners studying in the classrooms of the country’s universities was upward. In the 2018-2019 academic year, official figures from the Ministries of Education and Universities show that at that time there were a total of 66,937 foreign students enrolled. The figure represented 5.2% of all university students in Spain.
In the 2019-2020 academic year, the virus was not noticed until the school year had already started and the provisional data show 75,925 enrollments of foreign students, 13.4% more, up to 5.8% of the total enrollments. The data for 2020-2021, the first fully pandemic year, are not yet known, although a decrease in foreign students can be expected due to mobility limitations.
But the rise of mobility limitations does not necessarily mean the decline of international training, as highlighted by Mónica Flores, president of ManpowerGroup for Latin America. Just as the Covid has closed doors, windows have been opened. “Of course, physical mobility has been impacted by the restrictions that the pandemic has imposed on various populations, but virtual mobility has increased. Today there is the possibility of studying at a Chinese university from the comfort of our home, doing teamwork with people from all over the world without the need to travel or obtain a visa, “explains Flores, before stating that, in addition, the Virtual modality is gaining more and more quality and at the same time saving costs.
Flores reviews the advantages of international education. “When a young person or a student of any age goes out to learn in a foreign university, beyond the academic knowledge that he is going to acquire, he improves his abilities to understand other cultures, the mastery of another language, the ability to accept the differences and their adaptability to other customs. Also, broaden your network of contacts, which pays for having a global mindset that makes it easier for you to work as a team, communicate with different cultures and people, be more open to diversity and inclusion, and have much greater empathy to build influential relationships. ”.
Javier Blasco, director of the Adecco Group Institute, puts the spotlight in the same direction as Flores. “Being able to move in an environment of international universities where you can work with a team with people from other countries, other cultures, other ideologies and other generations is an added value.” The expert believes so, and more so in a context in which the concern for diversity is increasing among companies. From the statements of both human resources analysts, the idea can be extracted that studying abroad is a formative experience that goes far beyond the academic level, and that the pandemic does not change it.
Regarding the attractiveness of the university ecosystem in Spain, Blasco highlights that there are several business schools that have been in the top 15 worldwide for 20 years and that there are public universities, with more affordable prices for students, that are located there. among the best in the country. “In Spain, of the five best universities, three are public: the Carlos III of Madrid, the Autonomous of Barcelona and the Autonomous of Madrid. They are public and they are good, just as there are private ones that are very good too ”. However, Blasco admits that some training centers have lagged behind the average university quality in other destinations for international students.
Miguel Ángel Castro Arroyo, president of the Ibero-American Postgraduate University Association (AUIP) and rector of the University of Seville, foresees that, regardless of whether in the future the students are more international or not, it will be the universities that will take the step. “The establishment of alliances or cooperation between academic institutions and entities, such as Segib or AUIP, benefits the exchange or mobility of students, teachers and researchers, favors the recognition of studies between universities, joint international projects arise and, most importantly, the foundations are laid to share experiences and knowledge that facilitate the search for quality. I have no doubt that, in the future, universities will seek collaboration through international strategic alliances to offer answers to society ”.
Beyond the reading of adding students, what Castro defends is that winning international students is attracting talent. To achieve this, resources are needed, offer something different from what is available in the universities of the country of origin, encourage the recognition of degrees and reduce bureaucratic obstacles.
Although it has advantages, studying at a foreign university is not always the best. Sometimes it pays to focus on learning a specific trade. Javier Blasco believes that it will depend on each person to see what they compensate: “In the short term, to get out of the crisis, I recommend that people bet on professional training not exclusively university. In Spain we have sectors such as construction or industry where thousands of employees are still needed and there are no qualified people ”.
The expert says that in our country there are trades in which, if you have experience, an average of 4,000 euros per month is charged. “You don’t even need to do professional training, which for me is the star. We have certificates of professionalism that, through training for employment, make it possible to practice new professions. That for a person who is unemployed or in a sector that is not going to recover in a while, is a very valid solution, “he says.