The study ‘National and international students in access to higher education’ released by the Belmiro de Azevedo Foundation, shows that there are more foreign students choosing Portugal to study, but many institutions continue to ignore the recommendations made by the Government seven years ago.
In 2014, the report “A Strategy for the Internationalization of Portuguese Higher Education” presented several warnings that, according to the study, “have not been applied”. One of them was the importance of having educational training given in English.
In the 2019/20 academic year, of the nearly 50,000 international students, nearly three out of four (72.9 percent) spoke Portuguese: 40.63 percent were from Brazil and 32.29 percent from the Community of Portuguese Language Countries (CPLP).
Of the remaining approximately 13,000 students, young people from Spain, France, Italy and Germany stood out, “where there are important communities of Portuguese descendants”.
For Edulog researchers, this reality means that “one of the weaknesses of the internationalisation process remains as a result of the poor offer of study cycles in the English language”, an issue that had been addressed in the report's recommendations, “apparently without great results” .
The researchers also highlight the fact that the International Student Statute excludes international students from the possibility of applying for scholarships. Only CPLP students are eligible, “which places our institutions at a clear inferiority in a competitive and globalised higher education market”.
Another problem detected is the bureaucracy involved in obtaining visas for students from outside the Community.
The study warns that the Via Verde, which was also proposed in the 2014 report, was never implemented, and points to the absence of national coordination between the bodies involved in the path of international students.
Regarding the challenges highlighted, the spokesperson for the study, Alberto Amaral, warned of the gradual decrease in the birth rate in Portugal and the need to have these foreign students in Portugal.
In the near future, there will be a reduction in Portuguese young people entering higher education and therefore the internationalisation of Portuguese higher education will be “one of the main strategies to support the sustainability of institutions, and that is why it is imperative to start adopting measures to mitigate the difficulties in the international development of our education system”.
Edulog recommends greater investment in funding academic research to improve the country's international visibility at a scientific level.
In addition, it defends the promotion of a training offer in English, to be able to attract students from other countries in addition to those from Portuguese-speaking countries.
The creation of a “student visa”, based on a simplified bureaucracy, as is already the case, for example, in Germany, Poland and Sweden, is another of the recommendations of the study released.