Brazil plans to boost scientific knowhow by sending 75,000 students abroad to study


Ned Stafford/Hamburg, Germany 

Universities in Germany, the US, the UK and other nations are preparing for an influx of tens of thousands of Brazilian students, doctoral candidates and post-docs in the next three years. The students will start arriving in January as part of Brazil’s new Science Without Borders programme.

The goal of the programme is to more than quadruple the number of Brazilians studying abroad to 75,000 by 2014. The plan is to place them at leading universities in fields of strategic national importance to Brazil, whose economy is booming but lacks sufficient scientific and technological knowhow.

About 35,000 of the 75,000 participants awarded scholarships will be placed in the US, 10,000 in the UK, 10,000 in Germany and 5000 in France, according to Emerson Willer of Brazil’s National Council for Scientific and Technological Development (CNPq), one of the two groups coordinating the programme, which was announced in August.

Brazil students

The Brazilian government hopes to improve the country’s knowledge base in key scientific disciplines

Willer tells Chemistry World that the remaining 15,000 will go to institutes in Asia and other countries in the Americas and Europe. The total cost of the programme will be R$3.16 billion (?1.13 billion).

The government foresees about 35,000 of the programme’s slots being held by doctoral candidates and about 8900 by post-docs, Willer says, adding that Brazilians sent abroad must be go into engineering, ’pure sciences’, such as chemistry, physics and mathematics, or biosciences and health research. Chemistry related fields being targeted as strategically important include nanotechnology, new materials, pharmaceuticals, traditional energy generation and renewable energies.

Brazil has also put in place measures to try to avoid a brain drain. ’The students need to return to Brazil for the same period of time that they stay abroad,’ Willer says.

Jutta Steffen of the German Academic Exchange Service (DAAD), which is handling the placement of Science Without Borders students in Germany, says that interest in the scheme is strong, with about 70 universities in contact with DAAD as potential hosts. ’Students from Brazil are considered to be valuable contributors for the internationalisation of German universities,’ she says.

In 2010, only 2561 Brazilians enrolled at German universities or advanced technical schools - just over 1 per cent of the foreign student total. The new students will have access to undergraduate or graduate programmes, but will not be ’aiming towards a BA or MA degree in Germany,’ she says.

Sharon Witherell of the New York City based Institute of International Education (IIE), which is handling US placements, says the first round of applications from Brazil are now pouring in. ’We have seen a high level of interest from the US institutions,’ she says, adding that colleges and universities want to expand ’their global reach and activities, especially in Latin America and Brazil in particular’. She expects more than 100 institutions to host participating Brazilian students.

In the 2009-10 academic year, 8786 students from Brazil attended US colleges and universities out of a total of 690,923 foreign students, she says. More than 128,000 Chinese students came to US institutes and 105,000 from India.