Academic mobility

Academic mobility, which includes mobility of students and staff, for both teaching and training, has always been considered as a key, if not defining element of Internationalization. This was so above all in Europe, where outgoing mobility for students has been considered a priority in the policy makers’ as well as institutional leaders’ view. This importance has been amply demonstrated by the European Union’s support for the Erasmus Programme. Since 1987 Erasmus has enabled millions of people, to study or undertake internships, for a period of 3 months to an academic year, in another European country.

There is a variety of terminology used in higher education to describe student mobility, the UNESCO Institute for Statistics, the OECD and Eurostat use a definition of international students, the European University Association (EUA) and the Academic Cooperation Association (ACA) identify different kinds of mobility and provide their definitions.

Student mobility is certainly a major part and focus of most HEIs’ internationalization strategy. It is an activity for which funding has increased in the last years in all world region (IAU 4th Global Survey). The international exposure that It entails is an essential factor of influence on mobilie students’ education. There are many studies on the positive impact of mobility for the development of interpersonal skills, personal maturity and cognitive skills in general.

“Students do not only mature during their stay but they also gain in competences often summarized as soft or key skills like intercultural awareness, adaptability, flexibility, innovativeness, productivity, motivation, endurance, problem solving abilities and being able to work productively in a team" (Bracht et al. 2006, 209).

But there are many obstacles standing in the way of student mobility, mostly but not only linked to regulatory issues such as visas, or recognition matters and costs. Also, as more students take on part-time work, the opportunity costs of being mobile become important considerations. For these and other reasons, short and very short study abroad stays are being integrated into the student experience with some positive impacts reported:

“Short-term international study programs, even as short as one month, are worthwhile education endeavors that have self-perceived impacts on students’ intellectual and personal lives” (Chieffo, L., & Griffiths, L. 2004).

Though mobility programmes are not new (the Commonwealth Scholarships and Fellowships programme is close to 75 years old as is the first Colombo Plan), there is at present a growing number of mobility schemes being developed to facilitate increased flows of students at all levels as well as professor, researchers and staff. These are being designed and funded at national or regional level.

Some of the best known programmes include:

Erasmus Plus

  • Erasmus+ provides opportunities for over 4 million Europeans to study, train, gain work experience and volunteer abroad.

Cemcia sem fronteras

  • The project aims to promote the consolidation and expansion of science, technology and innovation in Brazil by means of international exchange and mobility.

Only in Spanish: Plataforma de movilidad estudiantil y académica de la Alianza del Pacífico

  • The "Pacific Alliance student and academic mobility platform" scholarship program established by Chile, Colombia, Mexico and Peru within the framework of the Alliance of the Pacific, aims to contribute to the formation of advanced human capital through the granting Of fellowships reciprocally and in terms of equality between the four countries, for the exchange of undergraduate, doctoral and faculty students.

Only in Spanish: Programa de intercambio estudiantil de el Centro Interuniversitario de Desarrollo, CINDA

  • Program of student mobility that takes place between countries of Latin America and Spain, Belgium and Italy.

Government of Canada

  • The Government of Canada’s Understanding Canada program aims to develop a greater knowledge and understanding of Canada, its values and its culture through different projects that involve student mobility, doctorats, postdoctoral fellowship.

Australian Government

  • The Australian Government encourages Australian students to immerse themselves into social and academic cultures of other countries and provides opportunities for international students to study in and experience Australia.

Colombo Plan

  • The Colombo Plan mobility program provides funding opportunities for Australian universities and university consortia to provide grants to Australian undergraduate students to participate in semester based or short term study in the Indo-Pacific region.

Nyerere Program

  • The Mwalimu Nyerere programme intends to grant scholarships to facilitate exchanges between African universities. This programm is one of the numerous concrete actions undertaken under the 7th thematic partnership of the Joint Africa-EU Strategy.

Program for North American Mobility in Higher Education

  • The program promotes a student-centered, North American dimension to education and training in a wide range of academic and professional disciplines that complement existing forms of bilateral and trilateral exchange programs among Mexico, Canada, and the United States.

Fulbright Program

  • The Fulbright Program provides funding for students, scholars, teachers, and professionals to undertake graduate study, advanced research, university teaching, and teaching in elementary and secondary schools.

AIMS Asian Student Mobility

  • The ASEAN International Mobility for Students (AIMS) program aims to create a vibrant student mobility program for citizens of all SEAMEO member countries.

CEEPUS Central European Exchange Program for University Studies

  • The main activity of CEEPUS are university networks operating joint programs ideally leading to Joint Degrees, esp. Joint Doctoral Programs. CEEPUS covers mobility grants for students and teachers in this framework.


  • The University Mobility in Asia and the Pacific is a voluntary association of government and non-government representatives of the higher education, it provides funding opportunities for students who wants to undertake a period of formal study while on exchange for a minimum of one semester and a maximum of two semesters.


  • The Nordplus Higher Education Programme is a mobility and network programme on bachelor and master levels, for the Nordic and Baltic countries. It supports cooperation between networks, intensive courses, development projects, joint study programs and student and teacher mobility in universities and university colleges.

Commonwealth Scholarships

  • The Commonwealth Scholarship Commission in the UK (CSC) awards over 900 scholarships and fellowships for postgraduate study and professional development to Commonwealth citizens each year.

Only in French: Mobilité scientifique et universitaire de l'Agence universitaire de la Francophonie (AUF)

  • 'Scientific and university mobility' action aims to facilitate the circulation of master and doctoral students awarding scholarships.

Some universities too have programs for incoming student mobility.


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