About 25 Brazilian university leaders and their British opposite numbers got a chance to meet in London for a pioneering event designed to share good practice and forge further cooperation.
Hosted by Universities UK’s International Unit, it included sessions on “understanding one another’s higher education systems”, “increasing the flow of people and ideas” and “next steps to develop[ing] the relationship between UK and Brazilian institutions”.
Along with the “quick wins” likely to arise out of any such “speed-dating” event, said UUK president Dame Julia Goodfellow, vice-chancellor of the University of Kent, she hoped that “building up trust” and increased understanding of “cultural factors” would lead to “long-term strategic partnerships” and greater “mobility of students and researchers”.
Developments in recent years had “enormously increased the amount of collaboration” between the two countries, added Colin Riordan, chair of UUK’s International Unit (and vice-chancellor of Cardiff University), as seen in “publications, joint citations, academic exchanges, [and] people opening offices in Brazil”. Yet the UUK meeting offered “the first properly structured interaction to talk about the sort of things we could be doing”.
Rita Louback, head of the Office of International Affairs at the Pontifical Catholic University of Minas Gerais, already had research collaborations in place with the universities of St Andrews, Salford and Southampton but found it “easier to exchange researchers and professors rather than students”. She was keen to create further joint projects in areas crucial to Brazil’s future, from agriculture and renewable energy to crime prevention.
Jaime Arturo Ramírez, rector of the Federal University of Minas Gerais, noted that his institution already had formal agreements for the exchange of researchers, undergraduate and PhD students with more than 20 UK universities and sent about 700 students a year to Britain. A substantial proportion of his academic staff had done their PhDs abroad and continued to maintain research links with host universities.
Yet Dr Ramírez still saw much scope for further expansion. He had just reached agreement with Loughborough University for his institution to host about 100 athletes from Britain’s Olympic and paralympic teams prior to next year’s Games in Rio and hoped that this would form the basis for deeper collaboration between the two universities.