From 2018 to 2021, Mexico’s National Council of Science and Technology (CONACyT) reduced its scholarships for postgraduate studies abroad by 83 percent. As a result, the council is providing lowest number of these grants in 10 years. In 2018, 4,600 scholarships were awarded, but by 2021, the number had dropped to 724, a cut that affects students who aspire to study abroad.
According to the list of beneficiaries published by CONACyT, the historical maximums were registered in 2014 and 2015, with 5,694 and 5,561, respectively. The decline began in 2016, when 3,074 scholarships were awarded, 44 percent fewer than the year before.
However, the greatest losses were recorded during the López Obrador administration and during the tenure CONACyT’s Director María Elena Álvarez-Buylla. In 2019, the number of scholarships dropped to 1,128. The following year, they increased to 2,008, but by 2021, they remained at 742.
The decrease has had an impact on the lives of students who aspire to obtain a postgraduate degree at prestigious universities abroad. This opportunity is taken away from the most economically vulnerable, because property-owning families could attempt to gain financing through the World Bank.
Additionally, national scholarships have also decreased. During the previous administration, an average of 32,000 scholarships were awarded per year. By 2021, this figure has dropped to 26,505, according to information from ProCienciaMX.
Mexico has operated the National Quality Postgraduate Program (PNPC) since 1991, with the objective to provide access to high-level studies in academic institutions both in Mexico and abroad, in addition to promoting better education and quality of postgraduate courses. However, this program is about to change, according to the CONACyT director, since postgraduate program evaluations will now be overseen by the Ministry of Public Education (SEP).
Students interviewed by media decry that they are losing the opportunity to learn from prestigious universities that could expose them to high profile academics and Nobel Prize winners due to the decision. Before, CONACyT would grant scholarships to all students accepted in accredited postgraduate courses. Now, many feel their opportunities are diminishing.