Latin America, and Brazil particularly, is listed among the key actions of most institutional strategic plans. To the external observer, the landscape of Brazilian higher education is a territory unknown and uncharted. Save for the major cities of Rio de Janeiro and São Paulo, European institutions seeking to establish equitable research partnerships seldom venture into the Brazilian states: bridge building and scenario planning with Brazilian universities defines a new frontier of possibilities, the reality of which is partly enshrouded in the unknown. In 2010 for example, the Ministry of Education (MEC) data showed Brazil to have 2.377 higher education institutions. Out of these, 2.100 institutions were listed as fee-paying universities scattered throughout Brazilian territories, seemingly floating autonomously within the waters of regional municipalities. Brazilian institutions are growing, fast, at times under the radar and while planning for the 2014 World Cup has been weighed by woes of national inflation, a deflated national currency and volatile price parities, the Ministries of health, education and culture (and the state-run Petrobras) have continued to invest in research and development at the regional level. From 2003-2012 Brazil invested 8.4 billion R$ in the federal university system.
In reality, institutions at home and overseas have little detailed knowledge of what is actually going on deep within Brazilian territories and a more comprehensive national picture of what is being done, needs to be pieced together.
The REUNI program (REUNI: program for the support, restructuring and expansion of Federal universities) spearheaded by the Ministry of Education set as its goal to have 680 thousand students in federal higher education institutions by 2018. Jointly with REUNI, Pnaes was launched (National Program for student welfare) so as to provide financial support for students seeking to enter higher education. The nominal value of investment through Pnaes increased 300% from 2008 to 2012, this was pegged at 500 million R$. In reality, institutions at home and overseas have little detailed knowledge of what is actually going on deep within Brazilian territories and a more comprehensive national picture of what is being done, needs to be pieced together. At the same time Brazilian public, community and federal universities need to engage with greater promotion and visibility of their research and regional development drives. Work with a distinct regional impact is under way not only within the agricultural sciences throughout western Santa Catarina state, but nationally in terms of community health provision through universities which have qualified for “Pró Saúde” project funding (National Program for Health Development). Since 2008, over thirty Federal, private and community institutions have received exceptional financial impetus from the Pan American Health Organization and although little is known of “Pro-Saude” outside of Brazilian shores, the program is an integral mechanism to regional development, fostering new methodologies and findings, where students, health professionals and clinicians actively collaborate through university public outreach partnerships. In an age where community health and the politics of participation has returned as a priority for the NHS, and where university health departments, as with the respective Royal Colleges of Public Health and Pharmacy, are urging their members and students to think and be more active in the community, the “Pró Saúde” program and the regional and demographic variation with which it engages, is a university-housed initiative which deserves greater exposure, and attention. This said, Brazilian higher education institutions, particularly those located within geographically and environmentally strategic areas, are undergoing a historically significant, physical expansion through the REUNI program.
Bridge building and scenario planning with Brazilian universities defines a new frontier of possibilities, the reality of which is partly enshrouded in the unknown.
With a particular focus on the Southern and Western border states (Paraná, Santa Catarina and Rio Grand de Sul) growth is synonymous with a geopolitical drive for Latin American integration and increased social mobility. Wheels began to turn on 16 December 2009, when the Brazilian Federal Senate approved the UNILA (University for Latin-American Integration) project, through the facilitative powers of the Ministry of Education (MEC), UNESCO, the Federal University of Paraná and the President Lula da Silva. So much so was UNILA seen as the totemic symbol to be held aloft, principally by Brazilian hands (and financially bolstered by REUNI), that the Nation’s leading architect, Oscar Niemeyer, was commissioned to design the future grounds of the university (expected to be completed end 2014), through his celebrated manipulation of curved form. This, coupled with President Dilma Roussef’s continued championing of the university’s founding (Mercosur) ethos, envisioning, as with Lula, Brazil as a country important for renewable energy innovation and socio-economic integration, and not merely mineral extraction, means that with continued investment we can expect to see from these geopolitically crucial areas, a significant increase of research into sustainability, health, food security and regional development.
President Dilma Roussef’s continued championing of the university’s founding (Mercosur) ethos, envisioning, as with Lula, Brazil as a country important for renewable energy innovation and socio-economic integration, and not merely mineral extraction