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Opening Pathways, Building Bridges

Skilled Migration of Mexican Scientists and Engineers to the UK

Tonatiuh Anzures

Opening Pathways, Building Bridges explores contemporary skilled migration and the brain drain using a bottom-up approach, based on a case study of Mexican scientists and engineers—or the Brains, as coined by the author—working in the UK. It provides an insight into how the phenomenon is shaped by the migrants’ personal and professional experiences (from Mexico to the UK: ‘opening pathways’) and how their contributions could have valuable effects through diaspora policies (from the UK back to Mexico: ‘building bridges’).

The research is based on an analysis of 36 semi-structured, qualitative interviews with Mexicans graduated in STEM fields, who currently work in academia or the private sector in the UK, and the empirical findings are organised into three main topics: transnationalism, professional experience and collaboration at a distance. It is argued that a more balanced exchange between Mexico and the UK can be achieved by building more bridges with the diaspora through long-distance collaborative initiatives. For this to happen, it is important for policy-makers to understand the relevance of skilled individuals’ choices and experiences, the value of their networks and communities of interest, the existing imbalances between developed and developing countries, and the challenges posed by scientific and professional collaborative projects.

This book offers some ideas and policy recommendations arising from the research, in order to better understand—and face—the challenges of skilled migration in future years and, ultimately, mitigate the negative effects of the Brains’ departure.

“Skilled migration has become a critical yet insufficiently explored topic internationally. Anzures’ book, focused on Mexican STEM immigrants in the UK from a transnational perspective, provides a valuable and insightful contribution enabling us to expand our understanding of key issues in the field.”—Raúl Delgado Wise, Universidad Autónoma de Zacatecas, Mexico

“The anthropology is excellent. The understanding is strong. The ideas are engaging. A must-read for everyone studying transnational science and technology.”—Joe Cain, University College London, UK

“Anzures takes us into the personal accounts of Mexican émigrés in the UK, their lives, expectations, fates and challenges in their new home, and considers the impact of this multi-faceted phenomenon as an opportunity to build bridges, a community of interests of mutual benefit to both Mexico and the UK.”—Héctor Hernández García de León, Universidad Iberoamericana, Mexico

“Unlike the majority of studies in Mexican skilled migration, this book is not centred on the US, the typical destination for global talent. Moreover, it is not a quantitative appreciation of what countries ‘lose’ or ‘gain’ when valuable human capital migrates. Instead, Anzures creatively explores the human aspect of skilled migration, with original and even funny details of Mexican policy for scholarships abroad.”—Camelia Tigau, Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México, Mexico

“Are the highly skilled Mexicans living abroad really ‘drained brains’? Do they stay in touch with their home countries given the distance? If so, how? These are critical questions that have long concerned migration scholars. This book addresses them with a particularity: it was written when the author himself was an international student, allowing him to address the experiences of his interviewees through his own biography.”—Mónica López Ramírez, Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México, Mexico