CANADA: Boosting higher education links with Brazil

Canada has announced a series of programmes between Brazilian and Canadian universities in the hope of strengthening ties with the world's fifth largest economy.

Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper (pictured) announced a new Science and Technology Action Plan during meetings with the Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff in Brasilia earlier this month, a sign of how strong bilateral relations have become.

On top of that, CAD5 million (US$5 million) over five years has been earmarked to renew the existing International Science and Technology Partnership Programme, which was established in 2005.

A week later, further funding for 11 individual projects, as part of the Canada-Brazil Award: Joint Research Projects Programme, was announced.

The initiative builds on a 2010 memorandum of understanding between Canada's Department of Foreign Affairs and International Trade and Brazil's Federal Agency for Support and Evaluation of Graduate Education, and is designed to encourage scientific cooperation and facilitate academic mobility between the countries' top research universities.

The projects address a range of subjects, from bio-nanotechnology to information technology, that are mutually beneficial for the institutions involved.

Karen McBride, President and CEO of the Canadian Bureau for International Education, which administers the Canadian projects, described the initiative as an "excellent step forward" in reinforcing the relationship.

"It is encouraging that there is widespread public interest in the growing relationship between Canada and Brazil, particularly because of what it could mean for strategic partnerships in the education sector - which are foundational to sustained political and economic ties between our countries."

Indeed, bilateral partnerships with Brazilian counterparts are increasingly popular in the Canadian higher education community.

The Association of Universities and Colleges of Canada (AUCC), for instance, has been working hard for some time to exploit the immense collaborative potential for linkages.

In fact, the countries' overlapping interests were the inspiration for a workshop in June where representatives of the academic and business communities considered mutually beneficial programmes of research and innovation.

The success of these negotiations means that, come the second Conference of the Americas on International Education in Rio de Janeiro in April 2012, there will be a delegation of AUCC university presidents on hand, led by Canada's Governor General David Johnston.

Building on this momentum, the Brazilian government recently invested US$2.2 billion in 75,000 science and technology scholarships for students and researchers abroad, and Canada hopes it will be a preferred destination for study.

The opening by the Canadian government of three new visa application centres in Brazil will help to expedite the processing of applications for study in Canada.

According to AUCC president Paul Davidson, bilateral cooperation like this reveals a bigger trend: "All this points to the importance that has been placed in recognising the role universities can and will play in advancing Canadian interests internationally."

In fact, it is "this kind of support for the internationalisation of Canadian universities and for collaborative research and innovation [that] drives economic growth and strengthens relationships," he said.