BRAZIL: Silence greets collaboration plan with Europe

Brazil and the European Union will hold a meeting next year to focus on improving academic and student mobility, as part of a drive to strengthen cooperation in higher education and research. The partnership with the EU has so far been greeted by silence in Brazil, with no comment from higher education organisations or any apparent press coverage.

Next year's encounter was agreed at a meeting in Brussels between Brazil's President Dilma Rousseff and European Union leaders, where both sides signed a letter of intent that commits them to establishing a joint work programme for future cooperation.

A communiqué released after the talks said the goal was to "promote mutual cooperation and exchanges in higher education and research and the mobility of students, teachers and researchers through the implementation of higher education and research programmes".

The initiative will include efforts to improve collaboration in areas such as specialised Brazilian and European studies by universities and research institutes in Brazil and the European bloc.

To enhance links, the proposed joint work programme will focus on encouraging the organisation of events such as higher education fairs and conferences "to improve mutual awareness of the respective education and research systems".

The meeting to set up the programme was first floated in May this year by Brazil's education minister and the EU's education commissioner, when they held talks on improving links. The programme is the latest attempt to give new impetus to a 2009 initiative between Brazil and the EU that aims to improve cooperation in education and training.

Brazil is currently boosting efforts to increase access for its postgraduate students and researchers to higher-level institutions in richer economies as part of its drive to improve the country's academic and industrial capacity.

In April, following a visit by President Barack Obama to Brazil, the US and Brazil agreed to a ministerial-level review of existing bilateral programmes covering education exchanges and called for the drawing up of a plan to deepen existing cooperation.

That review was heralded as part of a drive to reverse a decline in the number of doctoral students receiving scholarships from Brazil's federal government to study abroad. The number dropped from around 4,000 at the start of the 1990s to just 1,700 today.

But in contrast to the welcome that April's initiative received, the announcement of the setting up of a joint work programme with the EU seems to be eliciting less enthusiasm from Brazil's higher education community.