International mobility for study purposes: flows and distribution of CPLP students in higher education and Portuguese territory



Higher Education institutions, sustainability of the territories, CPLP rankings, diversification of educational offer


The study analyses the positioning of Portugal in the international mobility flows for study purposes, in a process built and consolidated mainly in the scope of the CPLP cooperation agreements. The aim is to identify the profile and characteristics of foreign students attending higher education in Portugal, especially those coming from CPLP countries, to detail the flows and origins, as well as their distribution across higher education institutions and the national territory, discussing the potential benefits of their integration for the different types of institutions/territories. The study is based on official census data produced by DGEEC for the years 2012-2021. The analysis shows the adherence of Portuguese Higher Education Institutions (HEI) to the recruitment of international students, a process facilitated by the change in the institutional framework under the cooperation agreements. In the list of reasons for this adhesion, it is pointed out both the possibilities of attracting new financial resources through the payment of tuition fees, as well as symbolic elements of prestige of the HEI in the national and international rankings, besides the potential for dynamism and innovation that results from the confluence on the HEI campus of students with differentiated references of experience and cultural orientations.  The article also highlights the relevance of international demand to strengthen the supply of higher education currently in operation in the different areas of education and study cycles, including in regions with less capacity to attract national students.

Author Biographies

Rosário Mauritti, Instituto Universitário de Lisboa (ISCTE), CIES-Iscte

Sociologist. Assistant Professor at the Iscte-Instituto Universitário de Lisboa | Escola de Sociologia e Políticas Públicas, Sociology Department. Researcher at CIES-Iscte, where co-coordinates the Research Group Inequalities, Work and Well-being.

Director of Iscte Soft-Skills Lab (LCT-Iscte).  President of the Scientific Committee of the special competitions for access to Iscte, and is responsible for coordinating the organization of the reception of these students and supporting them in their academic and social integration.

Member of the Pedagogical Council of Iscte and member of the Pedagogical Commission of the School of Sociology and Public Policies.

Vice-President of the Board of SNESup, the National Higher Education Union.

Throughout my research career I have participated in project teams and scientific consultancies, national and international, invested in themes such as social classes and social inequalities, the characterization of living conditions and value orientations of higher education students, aging societies, well-being, social change, and lifestyles, among others.


Currently, I am the representative of CIES-Iscte in the ESS/European Social Survey; I am co-coordinating an international exchange project, aiming at the creation of a Transversal Skills Laboratory at the Amilcar Cabral University, in Guinea-Bissau; and I am a member of the research team of EUROSTUDENT (European Project on living conditions of students)

I have published several national and international articles, book chapters, and books, and participated in communications at national and international conferences. My recent publications have appeared in International Studies of Sociology in Education, European Journal of Social Work, Portuguese Journal of Social Science, Sociologias (BR); Sociologia, Problemas e Práticas, Sociologia On-Line, and Análise Social. 

Sónia Pintassilgo, Instituto Universitário de Lisboa (ISCTE), CIES-Iscte

Assistant Professor at the Department of Social Research Methods and Researcher at CIES-Iscte, in Family, Generations and Health reserach line. Co-coordinator of Laboratório de Estudos Sociais sobre o Nascimento - nascer. Sub-director of School of Sociology and Public Policies at Iscte-Instituto Universitário de Lisboa (ESPP-Iscte), responsible for the advisory service to students of ESPP-Iscte and has been, in recent years, President of the Jury of the M23 of the same School. Member of the Scientific Committee of the Department of Social Research Methods. Since 2019, she is part of the Scientific Committee of the special competitions for access to Iscte, in the context of which he has been contributing to the design of training responses and monitoring of an increasingly diverse student body, aimed at improving, not only access, but the academic and social experience of students. She has conducted research on Demography, Population Sociology and Sociology of Birth and Motherhood. Presently, she co-coordinates an international cooperation project, in the area of Education and Higher Education, with the Amilcar Cabral University, in Guinea-Bissau, she is a researcher in the EQUALS4COVID19 project, and is a member of the team responsible for the elaboration of the Strategic Plan for the Intermunicipal Development of Education in Alto Alentejo, the Strategic Educational Plan of Baixo Alentejo and Municipal Educational Maps.

Sandra Palma Saleiro, Instituto Universitário de Lisboa (ISCTE), CIES-Iscte

Sandra Palma Saleiro ( PhD in Sociology. Researcher at the Centre for Research and Studies in Sociology (CIES-IUL). Invited Assistant Professor at the Department of Sociology, School of Sociology and Public Policy, of the University Institute of Lisbon (ISCTE-IUL). She has worked on research projects on gender, gender equality and gender violence; transgender, gender diversity; social inequalities and poverty and social exclusion; evaluation methodologies, evaluation of public policies and programs and projects. In her doctoral thesis entitled "Trans Genders. A sociological approach to gender diversity”,  she mapped the diversity of (trans) gender identities and expressions in Portuguese society. The most recent projects include the project "Gender Diversity, Citizenship and Health" at CIES-IUL, within the scope of the FCT - Portuguese Foundation for Science and Technology (2016-2022); the coordination of “National Portuguese Study on the Needs of LGBTI+ Persons and the reasons for discrimination on grounds of sexual orientation, gender identity and expression, and sexual characteristics”, financed by POISE (2021-2022); the  local coordination of the projet “Cávado + Equal. Equality and Reconciliation in personal, family and professional life” (2020-2023).

Helena Belchior Rocha, Instituto Universitário de Lisboa (ISCTE), CIES-Iscte

Helena Belchior Rocha has a PhD in Social Work, is an Assistant professor at ISCTE- University Institute of Lisbon in the Department of Political Science and Public Policies and deputy director of the Transversal Skills Laboratory. Integrated researcher at CIES, Centre for Research and Studies in Sociology, linked to national and international research projects, namely 2 from Marie Curie Actions. Author of papers and communications at national and international congresses, in the areas of social work theory and methodology, environment, sustainability, community Intervention, ethics, human rights, social policies and Well-being, education and soft skills. Member of the Editorial Board of national/international journals.


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