My interest in this program was stimulated both by the relevance of the topic to my own research and the opportunity to engage in an intensive collaboration with an outstanding group of colleagues. The intellectual and personal atmosphere was excellent, not the least because of the great diversity in terms of nationalities, academic backgrounds and research interests. Some in the group were full-time academics with a long-term interest in higher education research. Others had great experience in policy-making at the national and international level. The interaction with such a formidable group was one of the aspects that made participating in the NCS program a tremendous experience. All the activities are coordinated by a Distinguished Leader – in our case Prof. Philip Altbach (Boston College); and by Patti McGill, the outgoing executive director from CIES. Both did a great job in coordinating the group, with an excellent balance between steering and autonomy.

One of the most important aspects of the program is that it aims at developing a rich intellectual network of scholars and this team approach is visible in the expected outcomes. The program welcomes advances in individual research, but the most important outcomes of this experience should be developed through the sub-groups to which each participant is allocated, based on his/her interests. I have integrated the working group on the public-private mix in higher education that included participants from Yemen, Pakistan, United States, Uruguay, and Uganda. During the year, the group has focused in providing a theoretical framework for a better understanding of the public-private mix of higher education and a set of policy guidelines in dealing with the expansion of private higher education by analyzing several country case studies from a comparative perspective.

The program also supports individual research, not the least because one of the requirements of the NCS experience is that each scholar spends a minimum of 2 months visiting a research institution in the US (or in another country in the case of the scholars coming from the US). In my case, NCS provided me the opportunity to spend my research visit at the Department of Educational Policy and Administration of the State University of New York (Albany), which hosts an excellent network of scholars interested in the development of private higher education around the globe. During that period I could continue my work analyzing the significant expansion that private higher education has recently experienced worldwide and examining to what extent that expansion has explored new markets or duplicated what public institutions already do. In my work I have used some statistical tools aiming at measuring diversification in higher education in order to assess empirically the links between privatization and diversity.

My work has benefited in many ways from the NCS experience. The collaborative work has stimulated me to approach my research topic in a more comparative way. It also gave me a much better knowledge of other dimensions and developments in other parts of the globe and a better balance between research and policy perspectives. The discussions with other NCS colleagues provided also a better awareness of other developments in higher education research and their implications for my research topic. It also gave a better knowledge of commonalities and diversity of higher education realities worldwide, of different methodological and theoretical perspectives, and therefore a better grasp of the implications of privatization in higher education systems.

Participating in the NCS program has been a fabulous experience and I feel honored to have been chosen and to have the possibility to interact with such a tremendous group of colleagues from around the world. Being the first Portuguese to participate in this program, I can only wish that other Portuguese researchers will have this opportunity in the near future. The fond memories of the intellectual and personal interactions of this experience will last for long and will continue to nurture my academic work for many years to come.


Scholar at Department of Economics of University of Porto and CIPES (Centro de Investigação de Políticas do Ensino Superior)