Brazil will seek to strengthen academic relationships with UK institutions in the second phase of the exchange programme Science Without Borders, according to the head of a key funding body.
The UK is the most popular destination after the US on the programme, which sends Brazilian scholars to 43 countries. The initiative is set to reach its target of 10,000 Brazilians studying in the UK this year, ahead of the original target of 2016.
In June, Brazilian president Dilma Rousseff announced a second round of 100,000 scholarships worldwide, with registrations starting next year.
“Historically, British universities have an important relationship with Brazil,” said Glaucius Oliva, president of CNPq, the National Council for Scientific and Technological Development in Brazil, one of the agencies that runs the programme.
“We are very keen to deepen this. I was in the UK recently and the satisfaction of British universities with the quality of Brazilian students on the programme is extraordinary.
“We see the UK as a privileged partner and want to see the relationship increasingly strengthened.”
Professor Oliva was speaking after it emerged that 70 Science Without Borders students at the University of Southampton were erroneously sent an email warning them to improve their performance. It has not been the only controversy involving the scheme. Earlier this year, a number of Brazilian students were forced to return from Canada and Australia for failing to reach the required level of English.
But Professor Oliva said that the students involved with such problems were in a minority and that lessons had been learned from the first phase of the programme.
As well as more language support through online courses, including those offered via the Brazilian government’s own site My English Online, he said, the emphasis during the second stage would also be on practical training and internationalisation.
“What we have seen in the students who come back is that the greatest benefit is in practical activities. This is a factor of transformation in Brazilian universities,” he said, adding that when it was conceived, the programme was not intended to be “just…about the tuition of 101,000 students”.
“Brazilian courses have a lot of class time. Everything that a student learns comes from the mouth of the teacher; this is very backward. So, we are seeing increasingly that these students [on the scheme] have a great emphasis on practical activities, placements, projects in which they can be involved.”
Returning Science Without Borders students have also been challenged to “bring a friend to Brazil” to help increase the number of foreigners studying in the country, he said. This would help to internationalise universities within Brazil, Professor Oliva said.
The programme will also offer fast-track overseas placements for state school students who rank highly in national maths, physics and chemistry competitions.
The programme has the support of both remaining presidential candidates – incumbent Ms Rousseff and challenger Aécio Neves – in a run-off election on 26 October.
Launching the next stage of the programme, Ms Rousseff said it was designed to “ensure Brazil has the conditions to generate innovation here, to generate interest in the sciences here and the application of technology in all areas”.