The university promoting Mexico as a new study destination

“A lot of students come here and find love and career opportunities. If we combine this with high-quality education, I can’t think of any better selling points”

Paraphrasing one of the most important books in Latin American literature seems appropriate to describe Anáhuac Cancun University’s (ACU) internationalisation efforts in these very complex times.

Early in 2019, their president, father Jesús Quirce, noticed that nearly 18% of their four thousand student population was already international. He saw that a growing number of international admission enquiries was coming from places as distant as Hungary, Russia, Japan, the Philippines, Nepal, South Korea, India and China.

Being a man of action, father Quirce was quick to react. He brought Óscar Velasco into his team and asked him to lead on the planning and implementation of a comprehensive international strategy aiming to attract full-degree students from all world regions.

“International students at ACU were attracted by the possibility of enjoying the Mayan Riviera”, said Velasco, ACU’s director of internationalisation.

“They started to arrive through exchange agreements, and some decided to stay with us as full-time students. Then, we saw that international admission enquiries were continuously growing and in response to this, we decided to work on an international student recruitment strategy.”

As a first step, the university started offering full-degree programmes taught in English starting last August. Some of these programmes are offered in collaboration with prestigious international partners that are familiar to students around the world and lead to dual degrees.

In Velasco’s words, “having chosen transnational education as a way to internationalise our campus has been a very good decision, since students can get international academic experience without having to leave Cancun if they don’t want to. This is very important in the current Covid-19 context”.

Also, from January 2021, the university will offer medicine courses in English with medical residencies in the USA and by 2025 they plan to offer at least 15 programs in English across most of their study areas.

Incorporating further international staff in the strategy has been also very useful. “

It is no longer surprising to hear that a university has a Spanish president, a Polish vice-president, a British business course director, Russian speaking support for admission enquiries, a Swiss exchange program coordinator and that more than 40 nationalities are represented in the campus”, said Velasco.

“What is surprising is to hear that that university is based in Cancun”.

ACU has also implemented a state-of-the-art admissions platform to make the application process by international students as smooth as possible and signed up a network of international representatives in strategic markets. In these tasks, the university has been working closely with Noordify – a consultancy specialised in international higher education (HE).

Anáhuac Cancun’s journey to internationalisation has also faced big challenges,

“Covid-19 has certainly made things harder but has also brought new opportunities”, said Velasco.

“We are surprised to see how more international students have found us after the outbreak started and decided to start studying with us online, while coming to the campus becomes possible”.

Another challenge has been promoting Mexico as a new study destination.

“We have signed up representatives that understand ACU’s value proposition and will get the message across to students”, said Gabriel Ceballos, partner at Noordify.

“Mexico has a great retention rates and many students stay after they finish their studies. Mexicans are welcoming people, and the country is, at the end of the day, a G20 economy. A lot of students come here and find love and career opportunities. If we combine this with high-quality education, I can’t think of any better selling points”.

Today the university’s representative network expands across Latin America and extends to regions such as the Indian subcontinent, the Middle East, China, and Europe.

“Working to increase internationalisation in the time of Covid-19 has certainly been hard but not impossible. The world is slightly different now and the future a bit uncertain. However, we have embraced change with determination and want to transmit a positive message to HEs around the world are currently in this same process”, said Velasco.


About the authors: Gabriel Ceballos is an International HE Consultant based in Estonia, where he co-founded Noordify in 2017. Originally from Mexico, he has collaborated with organisations such as the British Council, the Spanish Ministry of Culture and Birmingham City University.

Óscar Velasco is the Director of the International Office of the Universidad Anáhuac Cancun. He has collaborated for 22 years as director and researcher on leadership and higher education issues in the Anáhuac International University Network.