University of Arizona Leads Group of Universities in Push for Expanded Study Abroad & Faculty Mobility in Mexico


Nov. 21, 2016

TUCSON, Ariz. – The University of Arizona and seven other universities unveiled a new report that aims to provide guidance to U.S. and Canadian universities on ways they can begin and grow study abroad and faculty mobility programs in Mexico. Expanding such activities in Mexico is seen as a more affordable and convenient way to grow study abroad participation along with faculty research and teaching.

UA President Ann Weaver Hart outlined the report from the Mexico Academic Mobility Assessment Committee during the Nov. 13-15 annual meeting of the Association of Public and Land-grant Universities in Austin, Texas.

The report, which was led by the UA and is being widely distributed to public and private universities in the U.S. and Canada, offers recommendations regarding student and faculty travel to Mexico, while also acknowledging the "vast potential" of collaboration with that country.

"The challenges of the 21st century demand the knowledge, experience and expertise of scholars and researchers across the globe," Hart said Friday. "Mexico and its universities are important partners for the University of Arizona, and for many other U.S. and Canadian institutions of higher education that recognize the critical value in cross-border exploration and collaboration – by students, faculty, scientists and others in academia. The recommendations in this report will help to ensure that the positive outcomes from partnering with other universities and colleges in North America can be sustained and expanded."

The Mexico Academic Mobility Assessment Committee consisted of representatives from seven U.S. and Canadian universities in addition to the UA: University of Alberta; Dartmouth University; University of California, Riverside; Wayne State University; Western New Mexico University; Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University; and Rice University. The committee was convened by Hart this summer and chaired by Mike Proctor, vice president for global initiatives at the UA. The committee's purpose is to expand safe and affordable opportunities for U.S. and Canadian students to study in Mexico, and to evaluate travel information as it relates to security, best practices and academic collaboration. The committee is expected to periodically update the report to provide universities with updated and new information.

"Knowledge creation and educational empowerment know no boundaries," Proctor said. "Moreover, the solution to the world's most pressing problems lies not in the segregation of people or ideas, but in the confluence of knowledge and creativity enhanced by varied cultural perspectives. Now more than ever before, embracing Mexico as our closest partner in creating a critical and relevant global experience for our students may reflect the highest calling of universities as facilitators for transformative creativity, compassion and collaboration."

"Far too many students do not take advantage of their universities' study abroad programs, with cost and distance from home being two main reasons," said Peter McPherson, president of APLU, which helped initiate and support the committee's work. "This report seeks to help boost study abroad participation by providing universities with key information they need to establish programs in Mexico that will be more affordable and accessible to students. Studying abroad enriches students' learning experiences, exposes them to new and different cultures and people, and better prepares them for being part of the global economy. Mexico offers a vibrant study abroad option that is more affordable and much closer to home for American students than traditional locations in Europe, Asia and South America."

The report, which is the committee's first, includes background on academic mobility among the U.S., Canada and Mexico, describes governments' travel advice systems and how these affect academic mobility to Mexico, and discusses challenges institutions face with regards to risk assessment, insurance and travel policies for Mexico. Among its findings:

  • Despite the many benefits of study abroad programs, only 1.5 percent of students at U.S. universities participate.
  • The number of U.S. students studying abroad in Mexico dropped from nearly 10,000 in 2007-2008 to a low of just 3,730 in 2012-2013.
  • Although the numbers grew by 19.2 percent in 2013-2014, this still represents just 4,445 students studying in Mexico, compared with the 38,250 students who studied in the United Kingdom.
  • Of 69 institutions whose travel policies were examined, 94 percent allow student travel to Mexico, either without restriction or on a case-by-case basis. At 51 percent of responding institutions, there are no restrictions on employee travel to Mexico.

The report recommends "improved communication, knowledge-sharing and implementation of best practices to ensure that the vast potential that lies in collaboration with Mexico is reached." Among its other recommendations, the report states that institutions should:

  • Read the U.S. State Department's Mexico Travel Warning carefully as it is very specific to certain regions.
  • Prepare and educate travelers with region-specific information, links to useful websites, and explanations of insurance coverage and behavioral expectations.
  • Work closely with counterparts at Mexican institutions to determine the necessary level of support for students traveling to Mexico.

The full report can be read here:

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Frank Camp
UA Office of Global Initiatives

Established in 1885, the University of Arizona, the state's super land-grant university with two medical schools, produces graduates who are real-world ready through its 100% Engagement initiative. Recognized as a global leader and ranked 16th for the employability of its graduates, the UA is also a leader in research, bringing more than $606 million in research investment each year, and ranking 19th among all public universities. The UA is advancing the frontiers of interdisciplinary scholarship and entrepreneurial partnerships, and is a member of the Association of American Universities, the 62 leading public and private research universities. It benefits the state with an estimated economic impact of $8.3 billion annually.