1 Centre for Research in Higher Education Policies (PORTUGAL)
2 A3ES - Agency for Assessment and Accreditation of Higher Education and CIPES - Centre for Research in Higher Education Policies (PORTUGAL)
About this paper:
Appears in: ICERI2020 Proceedings
Publication year: 2020
Pages: 9053-9061
ISBN: 978-84-09-24232-0
ISSN: 2340-1095
doi: 10.21125/iceri.2020.2014
Conference name: 13th annual International Conference of Education, Research and Innovation
Dates: 9-10 November, 2020
Location: Online Conference
In recent years, Portuguese higher education institutions (HEIs) have intensified efforts to recruit international students as a result of several factors: declining numbers of national candidates because of a downward demographic trend (Dias et al., 2013), reduced state funding following the economic crisis, and the Statute of the International Student, a relatively recent piece of legislation from 2014 which allows public institutions to charge higher fees for non-European students. Thus, Portuguese public universities mobilized themselves in a campaign to turn themselves more attractive internationally (Sin, Antonowicz and Wiers-Jenssen, 2019).

The Portuguese higher education (PHE) system includes universities and polytechnics and a public and a private sector. Two main factors influence the popularity of institutions for Portuguese students: perceptions of the institutions' prestige and their geographic location. Universities enjoy a better reputation than polytechnics, and public institutions enjoy a better reputation than private ones (Tavares, 2013). As a result, private institutions have been more affected by the loss of students, not least because tuition is considerably higher than in public HEIs. Location is also important for the capacity of HEIs to recruit students, as those in coastal regions are in a favourable position compared to inland institutions because they are located in densely populated regions (Lourenço et al., 2020). Popularity among national students may lead to differences in the level of international recruitment, as the latter may be used to compensate lower national enrolments.

In order to understand the evolution of international student enrolments in PHE, this paper presents a mapping of the last decade considering a series of variables: nationality (who), the type of HEI and its geographic location (where), the disciplinary area and the qualification level (what). Data comes from a database of the General Directorate of Education and Science Statistics, containing information on all study programmes in Portuguese HEIs between 2011/12 and 2018/19. The analysis is based on descriptive statistics and only considers degree-mobile international students.

Most of the students come from Portuguese-speaking countries (Brazil, Angola and Cape Verde). 57.98% is enrolled in public universities, although, proportionally, private institutions enroll the highest percentage (10.93%). Private polytechnics have seen the highest growth, from 4.85% to 10.36%. Concerning location, most students are in the Metropolitan Area of Lisbon (45.49%), but Algarve is the region presenting the highest proportion (9.19%). North is the region with the highest growth (197%) over time, followed by Algarve (126%) and Alentejo (124%).

In absolute numbers, international students attend primarily first cycles (39.76%), although third cycles enrol most students proportionally (26.03%). Social Sciences, Business and Law is the disciplinary area with the highest absolute number, but Education enrols the highest proportion (9.86%). Health and Social Services is the area with the highest growth, from 2.72% to 8.37%.

The mapping of international enrolments gives us an overview of the transformations of the last decade and, therefore, a better idea of the segments of the PHE sector where international recruitment has experienced the highest growth. This work opens up new avenues for understanding the attractiveness and sustainability of PHE.
International students, higher education, attractiveness, Portugal.