Education is key to the development and advancement of individuals and countries alike. The schools and universities recognized globally as the most prominent historical centers of academic power are disproportionally based in the Global North. Despite significant investment in their development in countries such as China, Brazil, India, and Russia, the majority of institutions in the Global South find themselves unable to compete internationally due to the lack of a long-standing institutional academic history. The BRICS countries, which are spearheading development in the Global South, with its 3.6 billion-strong citizens who represent 45% of the global population, are pivotal in advancing education and are making significant strides in this regard, which merits recognition and appreciation. However, until there is a full commitment across this bloc to advancing education, founded in policy and backed by significant human resources and funding, families will continue to pursue options elsewhere to ensure opportunities for their children.
Irrespective of their location in the world, parents are well aware that a quality education ensures a breadth of opportunity for their children in a changing global landscape. The desire to provide the best education and secure an opportune future for the next generations drives families in the Global South to opt for international education in the Global North. The booming young populations of countries such as India, Indonesia, Kenya, Nepal, Nigeria, and the Philippines are actively seeking education and relocation opportunities abroad, which has had a huge impact on the internationalization and globalization of the education sphere. This reflects a broader global trend of increased international mobility that persists despite challenges and restrictions, most relevant of which are the Israel–Hamas conflict and the ongoing war in the Ukraine.
Disruptive events serve as a reminder that a plan B is always a valuable option, which is most readily available in the holding of second citizenship or residence rights of another country. An alternative residence or citizenship serves as security against unpredictable changes, but also provides a chance to expand and broaden opportunities for investors and their families alike. As revealed in the latest Henley Passport Power Index, which indicates the percentage of global gross domestic product (GDP) each passport provides to its holders visa-free, citizens of countries in the Global South generally have poor economic mobility scores, that is, there are multiple obstacles that prevent them from reaching the hotspots of global economic activity without a visa or having to follow complex immigration protocols.
While we don’t usually associate our passports with financial affairs or education, the research reveals that a powerful passport is a conduit to economic opportunity and well-being. Far more than a travel document that defines our freedom of movement, a strong passport also provides significant financial freedoms in terms of international investment and business opportunities, as well as access to premium education institutions and the right to live and work in another country post-qualification. As may be expected, the centers of global economic activity correspond to the centers of academic power and are home to excellent schools and universities that are sought after by families of the Global South.
As an example, if relocating to Germany, which has visa-free access to 93.4% of global GDP, a family from India, with visa-free access to just 7.3% of global GDP, is likely to face a lengthy visa application process, an even longer and more complex procedure to apply for residence, and a wait of several years before reaching the minimum threshold to apply for citizenship, in addition to cultural and language tests. By contrast, should they plan ahead and obtain a golden visa through the Portugal Golden Residence Permit Program for Portugal, which has visa-free access to an impressive 74.3% of the globe, all of the above obstacles could be circumvented. Furthermore, their children’s opportunities would expand dramatically, as they are eligible to apply for citizenship after five years of legal residency. As full citizens of Portugal, and by extension the European Union, both their present mobility and future opportunities would grow exponentially. They could have a chance to pursue an education anywhere in Europe with much simpler, if any, immigration processes. Furthermore, the employment opportunities would be far more attainable and correspond to the level of education they possess, in stark opposition to a general lack of opportunities they would likely encounter should they complete a specialist degree in a field not represented in their home country.
Although there have been hiccups, the world is continuing on a trend of globalization, and education institutions, primarily universities, are at its core. With their sizeable populations, BRICS countries and others of the Global South are vital to the global economy and remain steadily on the development route, with significant advancements expected in future. However, the opportunities that exist in the Global North, where citizens enjoy greater wealth and access to resources, healthcare, and education, are pivotal, and alternative residence and citizenship, coupled with a world-class education, ensure that families are able to excel in a changing global landscape.