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Wednesday, January 11th, 2012

Ambitious in Brazil. Opportunity for Canada.

On July 26, 2011 the Brazilian government announced a grant of 75,000 scholarships to be managed by two Federal funding Agencies: CAPES and CNPq*. The funding program is called “Science without Borders” (Ciências sem Fronteiras in Portuguese). These scholarships enable overseas studies from between 6 months and 15 months.

The Brazilian government developed this scholarship program based on its historical experiences with student and faculty mobility in the last 60 years. However, what differentiates this program from previous ones and is entirely novel in Brazil, is that it will cover undergraduate programs. The Brazilian government will fund students’ travel expenses as well as housing, meals and medical assistance. Tuition fees will be waived with partner governments and institutions as part of this initiative.

Focussing on STEM fields (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math), the first selections for the program was held in the late 2011, only targeted U.S bound students, with about 500 undertaking the opportunity. A more ambitious target of 75,000 students has been set for 2014, to coincide with the end of President Dilma Rosseauff’s term.

CAPES has invited other countries to participate in the program, including Canada.

Canada can credit itself with significant strides taken by the its Department of Foreign Affairs and International Trade, including significant investments in Canada-Brazil roundtables in higher education. It is, however, but one of several countries quick off the mark, most of which are higher profile, e.g., the U.S., the UK and France.

So what does this mean for Canada?
What should Canadian universities and colleges or provincial governments be contemplating?

First, Canadian universities and colleges have the opportunity to further relationships with Brazil’s public universities, which are the research centres in Brazil. Canadian universities, colleges and provincial governments can also build bonds with Brazil’s federal funding agencies (CAPES and CNPQ), its National Institute of Educational Planning and Research (INEP), the Forum of Brazilian University Offices for International Affairs (FAUBAI) and independent public foundations. Each of these in one way or another are charged with fostering research and scientific and technological development for Brazil. Brazil has an evolving college sector of its own that in some segments is looking internationally for collaborations. Certainly, the Association of Community Colleges of Canada (ACCC) has been a leader in this regard.
Secondly, a word of caution. I have been involved in a variety of Canada-Brazil meetings, conferences and the like. I have seen Canadians commonly impress. But a big bugaboo with Brazilians is a palpable lack of awareness of nuance in Brazilian society, or to put it differently, a too obviously stereotypical view. When it comes to higher education this is vital. Yes, Brazil is a developing society in a variety of ways, and is lagging in many academic endeavours. But it is also a world leader in many others, and is arguably the country with the fastest growing academic scholarship. Canadians would do well to have a feel for the Brazilian landscape in this regard.

Thirdly, it is important to recognize that Brazil is a large country with a great many important academic and research centres. It presents more as the United States than Canada; a massive land mass, largely arable, with an enormous population distributed throughout. Hence, consider seeking out the many Brazilian Atlantas and Denvers, particularly those in locales that may be natural complements due to geographic or industrial similarities.

Further, I would advise Canadians, and Brazilians to move cautiously particularly in exploring partnerships. Brazilians are gaining interest in the international domain rapidly. But most institutions remain well behind their Canadian counterparts in awareness of the ins and outs of potential international partnerships. Better to build a lasting relationship slowly then to overshoot – we Brazilians in particular are apt to perhaps particularly be disposed to aiming a little higher that might be realistic in the short run.

Finally, Brazilians are, and will increasingly be looking for true exchanges of students and faculty alike. Until Canadian provinces bring the teaching of Portuguese more to the fore a a third language option in their high school systems, universities ought to encourage Portuguese-speaking students to consider Brazil for study abroad options. On the faculty side, Canadians universities and colleges will need to be ready to be more flexible in finding ways to give Brazilian researchers meaningful opportunities, and be equally energized in motivating their own faculty to do sabbaticals or research missions in Brazil.

More information on the current scholarship program can be found at:

Graduação in Portuguese means Undergraduate Program in English.

*CAPES (Coordinating Agency for Graduate Education) and CNPq (National Council for Scientific and Technological Development) provide data indicating the scale of international mobility financed by the government.
CAPES: promotes and supports internationalization by consolidating research and graduate studies centres and increasing the opportunities for training master and doctoral level students. Now it is has extended reach to the undergraduate level.
CNPq: support is given predominantly to scholarship holders carrying out a full or “sandwich” doctorate, followed by support to post-doctorate research studies and sandwich undergraduate programs. The term sandwich in this context means part of the program done in Brazil and other part done abroad.

Source: An explanation on Brazil’s federal funding agencies was extracted from the book “Higher Education in Latin American: The international dimension” edited by Hans de Wit… [et al.]. World Bank. 2005.

Author, Rosi Vieira

Ms. Rosi Vieira, Country Manager, Brazil, Higher-Edge, holds a Master in International Relations with emphasis in International Education from Griffith University (Brisbane), a Bachelor in Translation and Interpretation, Universidade Ibero Americana de Letras e Ciencias Humanas (São Paulo). She is a leading advocate of the internationalization of higher education in Brazil.

1 comment

#1JamoOctober 30, 2012, 1:44 am

Hi Rosi,
Interesting stuff. I hope you can clarify the meaning on point 2. What is the bugaboo (dead end) you are talking about? From whose perspective? Thanks!

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