As the major economies around the world faltered and began making budget cuts in 2008, Chile, buffered by its important copper reserves, set aside a scholarship fund for Chileans to earn graduate degrees abroad.
In addition to this program – which was the largest per capita investment in study-abroad scholarships in Latin America – the Chilean government began programs to attract foreign students and professors to its universities.
Why? Because of a firm commitment to develop the country by investing in human capital and to create international partnerships in which Chilean universities stand on equal footing with the best universities in the world.
In 2012, those investments appear to be bearing fruit, with a string of high profile agreements and projects, most recently the creation of a new Global Center in Santiago by Ivy League Columbia University and the University of Southern California’s agreement to finance Chilean doctoral students to study at its facilities.
Today, Chile is at the forefront of an effort by Latin American universities to enhance their global presence, leading a continent that has historically had some of the lowest rates of international collaboration in the world.
The country’s two traditional heavyweights, Universidad de Chile (U. de Chile) and Universidad Católica (UC) are among the most internationally connected on the continent.
U. de Chile has now signed more than 440 collaborative agreements with 320 higher educational institutes and international organizations in 46 countries, while UC enrolls 1,300 foreign-exchange students annually and offers three joint graduate programs with universities in the United States.
But the country’s smaller and more specialized universities are also being taken seriously on the international stage, and the last few years has seen the Universidad Federico Santa María create a Masters of Energy Economics program in collaboration with the University of Applied Sciences Offenburg in Germany, the Universidad Católica del Norte launch a Master’s in Mining Management program with Australia’s University of Queensland and Universidad Alberto Hurtado start a Master’s in economics, applied economics and public policy with the Georgetown University in the U.S.A.
Not only have these agreements enabled the best Chilean students to gain international experience and opened the doors of Chile to professors, researchers, postgraduate and undergraduate students around the world, they have also attracted thousands of English teachers.
One of the major hurdles for Chile to overcome, if it is to continue in down the path of internationalization, is to achieve higher levels of English fluency.
To that end, the government has sponsored a series of programs aimed at attracting English speakers from around the world to Chile, programs which continue to draw thousands.