Embassies around the world offer an invisible infrastructure of political support, and can help
smooth passages for academic exchange, enable a community of international students in a
new country, and work to promote study options in their mother country. While there is some
political friction, sometimes, that can be attached to embassy activity, the role that they play in
education is in fact useful and often overlooked, says Callan Quinn.
ISSUE #24 | THE PIE REVIEW | 83
SOFT POWER IS an essential tool in the
arsenal of influences that countries wield when
trying to improve and extend their reputation
and impact abroad. And embassies, the physical presence
of one country within another, play an important on-the-ground
role in enabling educational exchange between
nations and supporting their student nationals while abroad.
From organising events for universities to meet prospec-tive
international students and giving out scholarships, to
promoting language learning and linking up industry stake-holders
with their counterparts back home, the role of em-bassies
is becoming increasingly diversified as they take on
a wide range of responsibilities in the sphere of education.
But an embassy’s role in education in a foreign country
must also be balanced by public opinion of their actions.
The last year in particular has seen players accused of in-appropriately
influencing affairs on foreign soil and finding a
middle ground between influence and interference can prove
Overall, the work of embassies and other foreign outposts
can be seen as largely two-pronged: educational outreach
for locals in a foreign country and educational support for its
Supporting international students
“Actually we don’t hear from most of our students, even
though we have a lot living here,” says Jakob Holm, the
press attaché at the Embassy of Denmark in the UK. “But
we do reach out to students. We host an event each year so
they can come and have a chat and meet us.”
Holm credits the lack of contact to the ease with which
Danish students adapt and settle in to life in Britain.
“In many ways, as an embassy we’re having very few
issues,” he adds. “Our students are mostly well-educated,
well-integrated and speak really good English so it’s only for
emergency situations that they contact us.”
The extent to which embassies around the world play a
role in the lives of their students varies considerably. “Most
of our students are quite busy with their programs so the
engagement is not that high,” José Tomás Pérez Gautreau,
the deputy ambassador of the Embassy of the Dominican
Republic in the UK, tells The PIE Review.
“The Embassy has taken a support role but in general the
students contact the institutions that offer scholarships di-rectly.”
The Embassy is working on a program to boost direct
contact with students, “especially so they can benefit from
the cultural events we plan throughout the year,” he says.