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Brazil: More Science, More Development – more excellence?

While the Brazilian government is preparing to launch the successor programme of “Science without Borders” (SwB), Brazilian universities are discussing what the future programme holds in store for their international activities.

As announced, the new programme - “More Science, More Development” (MCMD) – will, in contrast with its predecessor – not only prioritise (post-)graduate mobility but it will also have a much stronger focus on institutional cooperation, i.e. on strategic partnership between Brazilian universities and their counterparts abroad. The shift away from undergraduate mobility may already be reflected in the recent announcement by the government that they will still fund some 5 000 students in 2017 at post-graduate and post-doctoral level under the umbrella of SwB, knowing that postgraduate students represent a large minority in this programme. In supporting institutional cooperation, the priority will allegedly be given to strategic partnerships with renowned institutions in specific fields and disciplines, it is said.

To be eligible to participate in the new programme, Brazilian HEIs will need to submit by July this year their four-year internationalisation plan to CAPES (Coordenadoria de Aperfeiçoamento de Pessoal de Nível Superior), the government’s agency in charge of the new programme and Brazil’s main funding body for research. The allocation of funds to institutions will then be based on the estimated quality of these plans and their compatibility with the programme’s objectives. This requirement by the government is linked to the goal of making internationalisation of universities more structured and comprehensive, and streamlining many activities that currently exist but run in isolation.

The start of the programme implementation is expected in March 2018, after the evaluation of the submitted proposals and decisions on funding. Currently, Brazilian universities seem to have mixed feelings towards the new programme and how its funding scheme may impact on their international activities. One of the concerns is whether it will indeed boost partnership building if the programme scheme, as it is speculated, will fund existing partnerships in a relatively limited number of select institutions and countries, all in an endeavour for excellence in Brazilian higher education.

It is yet to be seen how the new programme and the revised priorities will affect mobility and excellence in the internationalisation efforts of the Brazilian government. Although the SwB programme was certainly not without its benefits for both students and sending/receiving institutions, its flaws are more often in the limelight - from a lenient selection process resulting in poorly prepared mobile students and low completion rates, exchange students with low proficiency levels in any foreign language, to frequent curricular mismatch between the studies at home and abroad, making recognition even more difficult than it is already – or often impossible. The shift of focus from undergraduate students to post-graduates and faculty may be a sign of a better thought-through policy approach, or a simple step back to the pre-SwB era, when the same resources had been used to fund researchers and graduate students.

The Federal University of Santa Catarina - News release MCMD (only in Portuguese) 

‘More science, more development Launch of new Brazilian internationalisation programme:  – Universities UK (information note)

Journal of Higher Education – SHARE