Brazil shutting down Science Without Borders

Short on time? Here are the highlights:

  • Brazil’s Ministry of Education has officially announced the end of the Science Without Borders mobility programme
  • The programme had sent about 100,000 Brazilian students for studies abroad as of early 2015, and a previous Brazilian administration had announced plans for a further 100,000 scholarships through 2018
  • However, funding for Science Without Borders was effectively suspended in late-2015, and this month’s announcement confirms the programme will not continue

After more than a year of speculation, the fate of Brazil’s prominent Science Without Borders (Ciência sem Fronteiras, or CsF) mobility programme has at last been determined. Earlier this month, the Brazilian government announced the end of CsF, citing the high costs and uncertain benefits of the programme.

Until it was effectively suspended in late-2015, CsF had funded nearly 100,000 Brazilian scholarships for studies abroad. The programme was first launched in 2011, with then-President Dilma Rousseff announcing an expansion of the programme in mid-2014 with the goal of supporting a further 100,000 study abroad scholarships through 2018.

However, that second major round of the programme never really materialised. A dramatic change in political and economic fortunes in Brazil – including the impeachment of President Rousseff and a significant weakening of the Brazilian real – put the programme under pressure in 2015 and new scholarships were suspended late that year.

Shifting the focus to post-graduate

In officially cancelling the programme this month, Brazil’s Ministry of Education has also affirmed that it will continue to support the nearly 4,000 students who remain abroad today on latter-stage CsF scholarships from the 2014 round.

The Ministry has further indicated that it will also fund a further 5,000 scholarships in 2017 for post-graduate studies, post-doctoral fellowships, and senior internships. In short, the government is stepping away from the policy direction for CsF, through which nearly eight in ten scholarships were given to undergraduate students to pursue a year of studies abroad in the midst of otherwise completing their degrees in Brazil. Instead, it is carrying on with a more limited scholarship programme that will target those pursuing advanced studies or research experience abroad.

The new scholarships will be administered by a foundation within the Ministry of Education, The Coordination for the Improvement of Higher Education Personnel (A Coordenação de Aperfeiçoamento de Pessoal de Nível Superior, or CAPES). CAPES is responsible for coordinating efforts to strengthen the quality of faculty and staff in Brazil’s higher education institutions.

International educators have had some time now to adjust a considerable reduction in the number of Brazilian students funded via CsF through the first half of this decade. Many will nevertheless look back wistfully on the loss of such a significant mobility programme, and such an important catalyst for expanding outbound numbers from Brazil.

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