In today’s globalized world, study abroad opportunities present students and their nations with a myriad of social, political and economic benefits. The Brazilian federal government implemented a program called Ciências sem Fronteiras (Science without Borders) in 2011 to encourage and support students in the science and technology fields to study abroad. The program aims to provide 101 thousand scholarships by 2015 to students in the undergraduate and graduate levels, as well as to encourage collaboration among Brazilian and foreign researchers.
The program has partnerships with more than a dozen countries, including the US, France, Spain, Hungary, India and New Zealand. The qualifications depend on what type of degree and program sought, but in general qualifying students must have high scores on college entrance exams, good academic standing in college and proficiency in the country’s foreign language.
Science without Borders undoubtedly benefits Brazil in many ways. It gives many students the opportunity to improve academically and grow their professional prospects by gaining access to a high quality of education and resources that may be unavailable to them in Brazil. When returning home, these students also benefit from a wider global perspective, which they can share with their communities and help them grow as well.
In addition, this initiative develops and strengthens ties between Brazil and the partnering countries, establishing a current of knowledge and professional exchange that may be mutually beneficial. These are benefits that study abroad programs provide, which the Brazilian government has recognized and decided to heavily invest on.
However, as expected, there are limitations and flaws to the program. One of them is the initial failure of foreign language proficiency from students who participated in the early stages of the initiative. Foreign language under-performance naturally impacts the student’s ability to academically succeed in the foreign country, and thus poses a risk to the effectiveness of the program. However, one can also see this as a temporary, anticipated limitation experienced in the beginning, as many students did not have a real incentive prior to the creation of this program to truly dedicate themselves to the study of a foreign language. As the years go by, however, prospective students may have stronger language skills and foreign study preparation, as they anticipate applying for the program.
Another flaw is that the program does not seem to be as academically demanding as it should be, considering the millions of dollars being spent to sustain it. Recently, the Science without Borders partners from the UK complained about students’ lack of academic seriousness, while Portugal has revoked its partnership.
Although the program surely needs to improve its recruitment and academic rigor, there is great value to it. It is safe to say that, in a few years, Brazil will benefit from a pool of better prepared graduates in the science and technology fields thanks to the global academic experience provided to these students.