The Study in Portugal Network (SiPN) is a program designed by the Luso-American Development Foundation. It comes at an important moment in the internationalization of Portuguese universities, companies and institutions. It aims to provide global responses to the challenges facing Portugal in general and the the city of Lisbon in particular, making it a pivotal point for international education and business start-ups, thanks to its central location and privileged access to other Portuguese speaking countries.
Whereas the Erasmus program already attracts thousands of European students to Portugal (according to European Comission data, in the 2012/2013 academic year, Portugal was the destination of choice for 9.894 students through Erasmus) – the SiPN aims at creating and delivering an experience that meets the specific characteristics and expectations of North American students and universities (which are distinctive from Erasmus). The new study abroad program will diversify the source markets for foreign students in order to develop study abroad and internship programs in Lisbon, at least initially. The goal is to create awareness of the universities and institutions in Lisbon, which, compared to other capital cities in Europe, still has little influence when it comes to study abroad programs. Our goal is to build critical mass for other more generic initiatives, also supported by FLAD, such as the Study in Lisbon and Study in Portugal initiatives of the Lisbon City Government and Ministry of Education, respectively.
SiPN offers a study abroad experience for a semester, a whole academic year or as a summer program. It provides students at any level of Portuguese fluency the possibility to enroll in classes from a large number of majors, taught in either English or Portuguese. The program fee includes tuition, lodging, various tours, cultural activities, public transportation passes, a mobile phone and constant staff support by the SiPN team from the moment the students enroll until they return home.
SiPN works with our university partners to expand the curriculum of courses that are being offered in English by offering some of its own courses and also by promoting the list of direct-enroll courses already being regularly taught in English at those schools. Besides those options in English, the students also have at their disposal all levels of Portuguese language courses for foreigners (from A1 to C2 levels, according to European levels), as well as any regular course taught in Portuguese at the universities that belong to the Network, so long as SiPN students have enough fluency to attend those classes.
The following universities have already signed the Network participation agreement: ISCTE-University Institute of Lisbon, Catholic University of Portugal, University of Lisbon and Universidade Nova de Lisboa. (These universities are able to guarantee academic credits and to ensure the students’ academic progression.) The program is physically housed in one of the four universities each semester, based on a consortium format that aims to strengthen and create positive synergies between the participating institutions by speeding up their internationalization process and providing for greater financial self-reliance.
Of course SiPN does not limit the student’s stay to just Lisbon. Field trips and visits to companies and business incubators take place all over the country. One other distinguishing aspect of the program is the summer internship program that provides academic credit for students seeking immersion in the Portuguese workforce and the chance to build global cultural competencies. Our internships program has already expanded to Porto and Braga, and we expect more openings to soon appear in Coimbra and elsewhere. In the near future, SiPN expects to become a case study that can be expanded to other Portuguese cities.
All the information (application process, universities, locations, academic offerings, lodgings, etc.) are available on the program website.
Recruitment is naturally one our primary challenges. Based on its expertise and support of American universities in the past, FLAD expects to take advantage of the rapport created over the years and to establish partnerships with universities in the U.S., thereby creating awareness of the program and increasing the recruitment of future students.
In order to do so, the Program director and FLAD Board Member, Professor Michael Baum, travels to the U.S. several times a year to visit universities that have collaborated with FLAD in various areas in the past, or that are interested in developing greater links with the Foundation. Professor Baum, for example, attended the American Portuguese Studies Association Conference in Albuquerque (NM) in 2014 and SiPN had a booth at NAFSA 2015, the most important international meeting on education in North America, attended by well over 11,000 people. SiPN continues to be marketed by FLAD as a major new initiative of the Foundation.
SiPN aspires to create a high-quality program that enhances Portuguese language acquisition skills in North America while simultaneously promoting Lisbon as a privileged hub from which to build opportunities in Europe and to other Portuguese-speaking countries. Through our unique partnerships, FLAD can leverage the student’s SiPN experience in ways that other study abroad providers cannot. For example, starting in 2016, FLAD has funded a scholarship together with the Fulbright Commission in Portugal for Masters and PhD students that will give priority for alumni of the SiPN program.
In the mid-long term, SiPN intends to capitalize and encourage cooperation programs between Portuguese universities and other higher education institutions that are located in Portuguese-speaking countries, also organizing these offers and making them more visible in the American academic market, therefore strengthening the Portuguese-speaking brand and the Portuguese language in North America.
Besides FLAD, SiPN has the U.S. Embassy, Direcção Geral do Ensino Superior – Ministry of Education, Portuguese American Chamber of Commerce, Fulbright Portugal, Lisbon City Hall and AICEP as its main partners. This partnership network will naturally tend to spread to other institutions that will come to identify with its purpose and whose cooperation will prove to be relevant to achieve the goals set for the program.