The Canadian university presidents’ mission to Brazil has wrapped up, and now follow-up begins.
Canadian presidents have pledged to return again to Brazil – to follow up, keep learning, and to deepen the partnerships that have been built over the past days. They’ll be followed by others from their institutions, especially faculty members and students, who will be making the lasting “person-to-person” connections.
In total, Canada’s universities signed 75 formal partnerships, agreements and scholarship programs while in Brazil, worth about $6.7 million. Mission participants also laid the foundation for strong collaboration on Brazil’s ambitious Science without Borders program, which will see more than 100,000 Brazilian undergraduates, PhD and postdoctoral students fan out worldwide over the next few years to widen their knowledge and their horizons.
While the AUCC delegation was in Brazil, its president Dilma Rousseff announced that her country will allocate up to 12,000 of those Science without Borders students to Canada – the second highest number after the United States, which will receive about 16,000.
“We”ve seen a lot of delegations come before who are interested in Science without Borders,” said Carlos Nobre, national secretary in Brazil’s Ministry of Science, Technology and Innovation. “But we’ve never had 30 university presidents. I’m very impressed.”
So what are the highlights of the Brazil mission? Certainly, for the university presidents who took part, the days were full. Up most days for a 7 a.m. briefing, we visited university campuses, research labs and government offices. In each one, we were warmly received (almost invariably meeting someone who had studied or conducted research in Canada at some point in their academic careers.)
Meetings often extended until late in the evening – and as always I was impressed by the energy, commitment and global outlook of Canada’s university presidents.
The connections that were made – and that already existed – are real. At the Brazil synchrotron near UNICAMP, we met a University of Guelph researcher collaborating on a research project, and watched as the president of the University of Saskatchewan, Peter MacKinnon, linked Brazil’s synchrotron with Canada’s, which is located at the U of S, for an experiment across borders. At Universidade de Brasilia, meanwhile, the head of its Institute for Sustainability announced proudly that he had done his PhD at the Université du Québec à Montréal. And at the Ministry of Science, Technology and Innovation, we met a researcher who had just returned from Montreal, where she had been working with Canadian colleagues on new ocean technologies.
Everywhere we went, we met students keen to study at Canadian universities. In fact, Canada was described by the rector of the Universidade de Brasilia as one of the top “dream countries” for Brazilian students.
This fall, some of those Brazilian students will set foot in Canadian university classrooms for the first time. If the energy for collaboration we saw in Brazil last week is any indication, they will be followed by many more.
We also saw first-hand the remarkable commitment of Brazil’s private sector to research and innovation – where companies donate one percent of total revenues to research, and where the private sector contributed an additional 26,000 scholarships to the Science without Borders program.
The AUCC mission to Brazil was unprecedented in its size and scope, and it demonstrated the value to both countries of international research collaboration and faculty and student mobility. “We don’t talk about brain drain or brain gain anymore,” Dr. Nobre told us. “We talk about brain circulation. We want to open up Brazil to international collaboration on a vastly larger scale than before.”
University education, research and innovation are clearly on the rise in Brazil – and those of us on the AUCC mission came away deeply impressed by the immense and inspiring ambition and pace of Brazil’s progress.