International Student Mobility and Public Diplomacy After the Arab Spring: The Case of Egypt

Principal Investigator:
James Ketterer, CPD Research Fellow, 2012-2014

Contributing Researcher:
Jeremy Booth

In the wake of the various uprisings, regime changes and dramatic events across the Arab world over the last year and a half, there has been surprisingly little change in the use of international education as a tool of public diplomacy in repositioning the relationship between the United States and the Middle East and North Africa. The role of international student attraction to the U.S. has long been a key component of American public diplomacy. However, it is a component not always fully implemented or understood, and often takes a secondary role to other policymaking tools. The U.S. Government supports programs like Fulbright, Humphrey and other high profile exchanges across the world. But funding has been largely flat and scholarship and exchange programs are modest in size across the Middle East and North Africa.

This study will examine the challenges and opportunities that exist in the case of Egypt, the region’s most populous and arguably most influential country, particularly in terms of educational and cultural affairs. In short, what is the current status of international education in the bilateral relationship between the U.S. and Egypt? What specific factors contribute to that consistently low number of Egyptians studying in the U.S. (as compared to other nations with similar profiles)? What public diplomacy policies might be instituted to mitigate those factors and increase the number? Finally, what role could enhanced educational ties play in strengthening relations between the U.S. and Egypt?

This study will address the lack of rigorous analysis and understanding in a way that will produce results that will be of value to public diplomacy scholars and practitioners, the international education community and prospective students. This project will carry out a thorough literature review, focus groups, interviews and targeted surveys. Furthermore, comparative case studies will be developed to better understand how economics, regime type, historical relationship to the U.S., type of educational system and culture might affect the level of international student attraction to the U.S.