Much of the mapping and analysis of transnational student mobility in higher education tends to focus on ‘south’ to the ‘north’ movements. However, recently GlobalHigherEd has been profiling some very interesting south-south movements, for instance with a highly entrepreneurial Malaysian university now establishing itself in Botswana.Today the Chronicle of Higher Education reported on another interesting reversal – this time with a large Mexican university now seeking students in the US and Canada:
Spotting a ripe market and a growing Hispanic population, the National Autonomous University of Mexico is steadily strengthening its foothold in the United States and Canada-one of the first inroads northward by a Latin American university.
Now, however UNAM sees that the Hispanic population in the USA might benefit those Mexicans and Latinas who have left their home countries and want to continue studying or complete a degree – in the USA or in Canada.
The Chronicle reports that the biggest campus is in San Antonio – in a two story building donated by the Texas city government. In exchange, UNAM professors teach the municipal employees Spanish and help with translation services. Other programs are run in Chicago and Quebec.
These developments suggest the benefits might work in several directions; for students of Hispanic decent, for local governments, and also for those wanting to learn Spanish. They also bring to light a range of new players into the field of transnational education, though the motivations of the students and the outcomes of various initiatives may well be quite divergent.
However they also highlight the fact that a comparative advantage in transnational higher education may not always be English, or cost of living, or indeed student fees (as we have previously reported), but the possibilities of exploiting ethnic agglomeration in a transnational knowledge space.