U.S.-Mexico Academic Mobility: Trends, Challenges, and Opportunities
To access the full paper, download the PDF on the left-hand sidebar.
Through both a qualitative and quantitative study of US-Mexico academic mobility as well as a comparative analysis of academic mobility globally, this study highlights areas where the USMexico higher education mobility framework is strong and others where there is much to improve. We argue for the importance of increasing mobility of higher education actors as well as for a set of transformative policy measures for our region’s higher education system. Together, these actions will both increase the region’s research capacity and provide a stronger pool of human capital. Government, industry, and other private partners must work together with higher education institutions to reverse the region’s downward trend of academic mobility. Collectively, leadership from within the higher education community—including universities, colleges, and junior colleges—along with partners in industry, government, and the philanthropic community must create a framework for higher education mobility that is voluntary and flexible over time and that incentivizes investments that support long-term bilateral engagement. We must also identify strategic academic fields and then build higher education clusters around these fields. Implementation of these measures will require long-term infrastructure for policy articulation, institutional coordination, and financial sustainability. Finally, a bold rethinking of academic accreditation and licensing of professionals in strategic technical fields will be crucial to the continued competitiveness of the region.
The United States and Mexico are neighbors, economic partners, often political allies, and sometimes competitors for talent, capital, and technologies. Just last year, the Obama and Peña Nieto administrations reaffirmed the strategic importance of the bilateral relationship by launching two significant initiatives: the High Level Economic Dialogue, a cabinet-level vehicle for deeper engagement on economic issues, and the Bilateral Forum on Higher Education, Innovation, and Research (commonly known by its acronym in Spanish, FOBESII), a parallel effort to increase academic and scholarly exchange and innovation between the two countries. In the context of these two bilateral initiatives, a key factor for success is the two governments’ ability, in cooperation with nongovernmental actors, to provide a framework that will generate and sustain the meaningful exchange of students, faculty, and staff among higher education institutions.
Academic mobility promotes increased understanding of culture and language, deeper knowledge of educational and research practices and technologies, and insight into the key lines of inquiry that drive research and innovation. The impact of significant increases in these exchanges and the educational and social integration that they would generate could create the potential for increased economic integration through expanded connectivity and the consistent, quality preparation of human capital across the region.
Figure 1 — The United States' Top Trading Partners, 2013
Figure 2 —Academic Exchange With the United States, 2013
The levels of academic mobility between the United States and Mexico are low when compared to those between other important trading partners of either country (see Figure 1 and Figure 2). Without significant increases in mobility between the United States and Mexico, any distinctive economic dynamism founded in the development of human capital is unlikely. Yet a set of bilateral actions could reverse this trend and set a course for increased economic integration based on a bilateral framework for academic mobility and improved collaboration in education, training, research, and innovation.
This study provides a context for US-Mexico academic mobility through a comparative analysis of other regions that have confronted similar challenges with varying degrees of success. Additionally, it provides policy recommendations for decision-makers and practitioners with influence within the higher education bilateral community.
This material may be quoted or reproduced without prior permission, provided appropriate credit is given to the author and Rice University’s Baker Institute for Public Policy. The views expressed herein are those of the individual author(s), and do not necessarily represent the views of Rice University’s Baker Institute for Public Policy.