The Mexican Study Abroad Market

In this market report on Mexico we will cover socio-economic, educational and mobility trends. Mexico has been an important study abroad market in Latin America for over 20 years. Although most students tend to go to the US, Spain, Germany, Canada and France and are also becoming popular study destinations.

Between 2000 and 2019, the number of international degree-seeking Mexican students more than doubled, from 15,816 to 34,900 students, according to the UNESCO Institute for Statistics. The main drivers are twofold: 1) a significant increase in the number of university students in Mexico and 2) Mexico’s rising number of middle-income households. These 2 factors combined significantly enlarged the pool of potential international students able to afford an education abroad. Mexico’s university student population has doubled since the turn of the century, from 2 million in 2001 to 4.4 million in 2019. The number of middle-income households earning an annual salary of between USD$15,000 and USD$45,000 simultaneously quadrupled and accounted for up to 47 percent of all households in 2015. (source:

Another outbound mobility driver is the surging demand for English language education in Mexico. The number of English Language Teaching (ELT) students increased by 35 percent between 2016 and 2020, making Mexico the 18th-largest market for ELT in the world.

All in all, Mexico has enormous potential for further growth in outbound student flows.

Quick facts

  • Population: 128,9 million (2020)

  • Education: 6 years compulsory

  • Academic year: October – July

Secondary education

  • Starting age: 12

  • Duration: 6 years (3 years lower secondary, 3 years upper secondary education)

  • Enrollment numbers: 14.1 million (2020)
    Enrollment rate: 104%

Higher education

  • Duration: 3 – 6 years (bachelor) – 2 years (Master) – 2 – 3 years (PhD)

  • Enrollment numbers: 4.4 million (2019)

  • Tertiary enrollment rate: 40%

  • • Universities / Institutions: 1.250

Mexican Education System

Mexico’s education law defines three main levels of education: basic education (educación básica), upper- secondary education (educación media superior), and higher education (educación superior).

Secondary education

Lower-secondary education is three years. There are no entrance examinations at public schools, and close to 98 percent of pupils who complete elementary education go on to lower-secondary education.

Upper-secondary education lasts three years. It’s free of charge at public schools and has been compulsory for all students since 2012. There are three main types of upper-secondary programs: general academic (bachillerato general), technological (bachillerato tecnológico), and vocational-technical (técnico profesional).

Admission to higher education

Admission to Mexican universities depends on the type of program and on the number of applicants to a program. Completion of upper-secondary education is usually the minimum criterion, but entrance examinations and high school GPAs are typically used to select students. Many universities require a minimum grade average of 7 or 8 out of 10, but top institutions may require a higher minimum.

Higher Education system

There are six subsystems of higher education institutions in Mexico: public universities, technological institutes, technological universities, private institutions, teacher training colleges, and other public institutions. When all of them are counted, Mexico has 1,250 institutions of higher education. Public universities and technological institutes of higher education offer affordable education to all Mexicans. Tuition is free of charge.

Bachelor/ Licenciado and Titulo Profesional Degrees
Licenciado and titulo professional are terms that are used interchangeably. Both refer to the bachelor stage which takes 3 to 6 years to complete. Programs usually include both course work and a thesis or degree project

Master / Grado De Maestro
Master degree programs take two years to complete in Mexico (between 80 and 120 SATCA credits). A maestría program requires the completion of course work and typically a thesis. A bachelor’s degree (Licenciatura/Título Profesional) in a related discipline is usually required for admission.

PhD/ Doctorado 
PhD programs are research intensive programs that take least two years of course work as well as original research and the defense of a dissertation. Admission is generally based on a master’s degree in a related discipline.


Image depicting the Mexican Educational System

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Latest Mexican Higher Education study abroad stats

At this point a total number of 34,319 Mexican students are studying abroad for a higher education degree (source: UNESCO). The most popular study abroad destinations among students from Mexico are:

Mexican students studying abroad
UNESCO study abroad data

IB schools in Mexico

Best performing Mexican Universities

Looking to partner with Universities from Mexico? These are the best performing universities.

Monterrey Institute of Technology

THE Rank: 601 – 800

Metropolitan Autonomous University

THE Rank: 801 – 1000

National Autonomous University of Mexico

THE Rank: 801 – 1000

Upcoming Education Fairs in Mexico

Scholarships for Mexican students

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