Marcelo Rabossi, profesor de las Especializaciones y Maestrías en Educación, fue entrevistado por el medio Times Higher Education sobre la iniciativa del gobierno argentino de cobrar a los estudiantes extranjeros no residentes por sus estudios.
Efforts to introduce fees for international students at Argentina’s universities are being seen as a first step in new president Javier Milei’s dismantling of free education in the country, with the money saved unlikely to make the diplomatic spats worth it.
In one of his first actions since taking over the presidency last month, the right-winger has introduced a bill to congress that would, for the first time, give universities the option to charge non-residents for taking a course; a significant step in a country that has long prided itself on its fee-free provision.
While the bill still has to clear the legislature – where Mr Milei’s La Libertad Avanza (Liberty Advances) party does not hold a majority – academics said it was a sign of what the libertarian politician may try to do in office.
Gerardo Burton, an emeritus professor of chemistry at the University of Buenos Aires, said introducing fees for foreigners would be a “first step” against free provision and was in line with the radical ideas Mr Milei expressed on the campaign trail, which many hoped he would water down.
While Argentina is one of the more popular international study destinations in Latin America, the proportion of international students on courses remains low, at about 2 per cent, with most coming from neighbouring countries.
Colombia’s left-wing president, Gustavo Petro, reacted angrily to the plans to charge, saying it would in effect “expel” 20,000 of his citizens, as he promised to find places for them back home as part of his own efforts to expand free tuition.
The policy may also set the government on a collision course with universities themselves, said Marcelo Rabossi, a professor in the School of Government at Torcuato Di Tella University, as many may be reluctant to introduce fees, even if they are able to do so.
“The government could threaten to reduce universities’ funds if they do not begin to charge tuition fees to non-resident foreign students,” Professor Rabossi said.
“Here we could be entering into a power game to see who is more powerful; universities or the state itself.”
Given that the numbers involved are so low, Professor Rabossi said the income generated by fees was unlikely to be significant and, rather than rushing to introduce charges, Argentina should instead focus on harnessing the skills of overseas students post-graduation, as currently many leave the country a short time after they finish their studies.
“Charging tuition fees without having a strategic development plan is an error,” he warned.
Diego Golombek, a biology professor at the National University of Quilmes, agreed that subsidising the education of international students should be seen as an “investment, not a cost”, and introducing a requirement that students stay and work in the country for a period could be an option.
“It’s clear that the current administration sees many long-term investments, such as those in science and technology, as a major cost for the country, and they are taking some institutional measures that will be very hard to overcome,” Professor Golombek said.