Mexico is the main Latin American country sending students abroad for international education. In 2018, there were 34,000 Mexican students enrolled in Higher Education Institutions (HEIs) outside their country of origin. From those, over 12,000 thousand (36%) studied in a European country. One of the most longstanding sources of funding for International Student Mobility (ISM) in Mexico has been the National Science and Technology Council (CONACYT) scholarship programme. This has funded graduate ISM since 1970 for the training and consolidation of human resources. In 2018, 58% of awardees studied in Europe. Some debates suggest these types of scholarships mainly benefit students with privileged backgrounds and reproduce inequalities in HE. This paper examines the socio-demographic profiles of former CONACYT scholarship doctoral awardees along with their different previous HE trajectories and decisions to study abroad.

This paper is drawn from my doctoral research using transformative learning theory concepts and the capabilities approach, exploring the transformative nature of ISM associated with individual meanings of the mobility experiences, capabilities developed, and implications for social change. In this paper, I present findings of the socio-demographic data collected through a cross-sectional survey and qualitative data from in depth semi-structured interviews. The findings show significant participation of students from less privileged backgrounds and a complex mix of drivers for outward mobility linked to previous educational opportunities and future life aspirations. This paper brings insights from a human development approach, showing how these scholarships are instrumental in increasing ISM opportunities, contributing to social mobility and facilitating career development.