Understanding the impact of policies for research training: Evidence from an international mobility instrument in Mexico

Student thesis: Phd


This thesis offers a qualitative examination of the impacts of the Scholarship Programme, an instrument of the Mexican government that sends nationals to pursue doctoral training overseas. The thesis focuses on the contextual conditions on which the Programme works and what it offers for its beneficiaries. Regardless of the increasing body of literature on international mobility –contextualised as an imperative factor for the development of national research capacities– the effects that this type of programmes can deliver are underrepresented. The study of the effects that can be associated with policy instruments are not analytically driven; for the most part, these are influenced by the brain drain outlook that focuses on losses and gains. The dominance of the literature has left a gap concerning the understanding of how policies work in reality. This gap inspired this study, which sees international mobility as a dynamic process, shaped by policy pressures and mobile researchers, who are governed by the norms of their scientific community. The concept of research spaces and research fields has been selected as the most appropriate framework for characterising the Scholarship Programme, its direct and indirect beneficiaries. The findings are analysed in terms of the variety of motivations and effects on the nanotechnology sector. This study finds that the international mobility of researchers in the Mexican context has significantly affected the practices and approaches to scientific research. It has also provided domestic employers with access to research infrastructure and funds. The study claims that international mobility policies are essential in the scientific profession, but that their effects are differentiated across the beneficiaries and are transferred as embodied knowledge upon their return. Research- related ambitions and agendas had a crucial role in the occurrence of effects reported in this research. The study offers several suggestions for future research, particularly on the process of absorption of the capital of mobile researchers. This study encourages further research on the possible effects of mobility on the configuration of knowledge creation. It concludes that this type of programmes can be conducive to improvements in scientific research, i.e. to enable researchers to acquire the skills and structures to become global researchers, which can also be beneficial for the sender country. The effects of this type of instruments for the sender countries are mediated by the conditions of the national research system, the academic culture of global and local researchers, and research funding arrangements. Using the case of the nanotechnology sector in Mexico as an empirical case added new contributions to the study of international mobility. The study provided an in-depth examination of the characteristics of mobile researchers, which helps explain the intricacies of the relationship between policy-led effects and the effects of international mobility. Nanotechnology has significant political importance and is a window of opportunity for developing countries to strengthen their research systems. This study shows that in the absence of an explicit public intervention in this sector in Mexico, mobile researchers, HE&RIs and companies are shaping its development.
Date of Award1 Aug 2020
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • The University of Manchester
SupervisorPaul Cunningham (Supervisor) & Maria Nedeva (Supervisor)


  • nanotechnology
  • policy evaluation
  • scientific mobility
  • international mobility
  • S&T policy

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