Portuguese Institutions’ Strategies and Challenges to Attract International Students

External Makeover or Internal Transformation?





challenges, institutional strategies, international student recruitment, Portugal, small countries


Public institutions in Portugal have not invested in strategies to attract international students until recently, when the adoption of new legislation and a national strategy for internationalization created more appealing conditions for it. This article aims to study the strategies institutions employ to recruit international students in a country less attractive than the major receiving countries and the main challenges they encounter. The study draws on interviews with top and middle managers in two public universities. The findings identify three types of strategies: institutional branding, revision of admission procedures, and curricular adjustments. The main challenges are the creation of institutional structures with an exclusive remit for international students and the choice of teaching language, despite a prevailing opinion that the Portuguese language should be maintained as a competitive advantage.

Author Biographies

Cristina Sin, Agency for Assessment and Accreditation of Higher Education, Portugal

CRISTINA SIN, PhD, is a researcher at the Agency for Assessment and Evaluation of Higher Education (A3ES) in Portugal and at the Centre for Research in Higher Education Policies (CIPES). Her major research interests are European higher education policies, policy influence on academic practice, teaching and learning; internationalization; and higher education quality assurance/enhancement.

Orlanda Tavares, Agency for Assessment and Accreditation of Higher Education, Portugal

ORLANDA TAVARES, PhD, is a researcher both at the Agency for Assessment and Accreditation of Higher Education (A3ES) and at the Centre for Research in Higher Education Policies (CIPES). Her main interest areas are policies in higher education, students’ experiences, quality assurance/enhancement, and international students.

Sónia Cardoso, Agency for Assessment and Accreditation of Higher Education, Portugal

SÓNIA CARDOSO, PhD, is a researcher both at the Portuguese Agency for Assessment and Accreditation of Higher Education (A3ES) and at the Centre for Research in Higher Education Policies (CIPES). Her main research interests lie within the fields of higher education policies, quality assurance, and institutions’ and institutional actors’ relations with quality assurance.


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How to Cite

Sin, C., Tavares, O., & Cardoso, S. (2019). Portuguese Institutions’ Strategies and Challenges to Attract International Students: External Makeover or Internal Transformation?. Journal of International Students, 9(4), 1095–1114. https://doi.org/10.32674/jis.v9i4.185



Research Articles (English)