International mobility and education inequality among Brazilian undergraduate students
Dias Lopes, Alice
In the last fifteen years, the Brazilian government has implemented educational policies intended to expand access to higher education for students from disadvantaged socioeconomic backgrounds. At the same time, research has observed the increase in the demand for international mobility of students from middle and upper classes. This PhD thesis aimed to understand the e↵ect of international mobility among Brazilian undergraduate students on educational inequality by examining the Science Without Borders (SWB) programme. This programme was established in July 2011 by the Brazilian Federal Government with the aim to promote the expansion and the internationalisation of science and technology, and increase Brazilian competitiveness through international exchange and mobility. The programme distributed 101,000 scholarships between 2011 and 2015 for undergraduate and graduate Brazilian students to study in a foreign university. The thesis draws on research on educational inequalities and international mobility. The research on education inequalities showed that in many developed countries, after the expansion of education, students from privileged socioeconomic backgrounds seek to maintain their education advantage through distinctive educational trajectories. The international mobility research also indicated that students from more advantageous socioeconomic backgrounds are more likely to pursue international mobility as a strategy for maintaining their privilege. However, international mobility programmes that o↵er financial bursary attract students from lower socioeconomic backgrounds as well. Hence, this research examined whether international mobility programmes which o↵er scholarships may operate as a mechanism for opening up opportunities in the education system. The dataset used for the study was created thanks to the collaboration of three di↵erent intuitions: the two funding bodies of the SWB programme and the National Institute for Educational Studies and Research (INEP). The negotiations to access the data lasted around a year and a half, and was only agreed after the anonymity of the students were guaranteed. INEP merged data from the High School National Exam (ENEM) datasets with the information provided by the two funding bodies to identify students who attended the SWB programme between 2011 and 2014. Probit regression models were used to examine the association between students’ socioeconomic backgrounds and the likelihood of participating in the SWB programme. The models showed that students with parents with higher levels of education and higher income were more likely to receive a SWB scholarship. In other words, there was inequality in access to the programme. Therefore, the financial bursary o↵ered by the Brazilian government did not eliminate the e↵ect of students’ socioeconomic characteristics on access to this programme. Multilevel models were used to analyse the association between students’ socioeconomic background and prestige of the foreign university attended. The models demonstrated that there was also inequality within the SWB programme: students from more advantageous socioeconomic background tended to study in more prestigious universities. These results corroborate the results from the international mobility literature and suggest that students from privileged socioeconomic backgrounds might pursue international mobility to maintain educational advantages. These results have important implications for educational policies in Brazil. In addition to the e↵ort to expand access to higher education, the government should also assure that inequalities are not being transferred to other areas, such as in the case of international mobility.