Higher Education Policy

, Volume 26, Issue 2, pp 217–242 | Cite as

Seeding Change through International University Partnerships: The MIT-Portugal Program as a Driver of Internationalization, Networking, and Innovation

  • Sebastian M Pfotenhauer
  • Joshua S Jacobs
  • Julio A Pertuze
  • Dava J Newman
  • Daniel T Roos


Higher education systems around the globe are experimenting with different strategies to foster internationalization and networking, achieve critical research mass, and strengthen innovation and labour market integration. This paper discusses how Portugal, since 2006, has pursued a distinctive international collaborative strategy to induce critical changes in strategic focus areas at its leading institutions. Utilizing survey and interview data from the MIT-Portugal Program, this paper demonstrates how international collaborations are used to raise student internationalization and selectivity rates, to create national clusters of excellence, and to re-orient engineering education towards innovation and entrepreneurship. The data show that MIT-Portugal has created significant spillovers into Portuguese institutions, underscoring the potential of international collaborations to be drivers of systemic change. We argue Portugal's collaborative approach represents a model strategy for building a targeted human resource, research, and innovation base suited for long-term economic growth. Our findings are relevant for other countries facing similar transition challenges.


higher education international partnership innovation mobility educational change 



The authors thank Robin Lemp, Gerri Powers, Paulo Ferrão, Natália Dias, and Miguel Carvalho of the MIT-Portugal headquarters and coordination office for their support of the research project. SMP further thanks Secretary of State Professor Manuel Heitor and the director of the MIT Teaching and Learning Laboratory Lori Breslow for support and fruitful discussions.


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Copyright information

© International Association of Universities 2012

Authors and Affiliations

  • Sebastian M Pfotenhauer
    • 1
  • Joshua S Jacobs
    • 2
  • Julio A Pertuze
    • 3
  • Dava J Newman
    • 4
  • Daniel T Roos
    • 5
  1. 1.Technology & Policy Program, MIT-Portugal Program, Massachusetts Institute of TechnologyCambridgeUSA
  2. 2.Leaders for Global Operations Program, Massachusetts Institute of TechnologyCambridgeUSA
  3. 3.Engineering Systems DivisionMassachusetts Institute of TechnologyCambridgeUSA
  4. 4.Engineering Systems DivisionTechnology & Policy Program, Massachusetts Institute of TechnologyCambridgeUSA
  5. 5.Engineering Systems DivisionMIT-Portugal Program, Massachusetts Institute of TechnologyCambridgeUSA

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