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IIE Delegation to Brazil Explores Opportunities for Strategic International Partnerships

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May 15, 2013—The Institute of International Education led a delegation of high-level officials representing fifteen U.S. higher education institutions to Brazil in early May, to meet with potential partner campuses and learn about Brazilian higher education. The IIE delegation traveled to São Paulo, Campinas, Recife, Salvador, and Brasília to visit public and private higher education institutions, including the Universidade de São Paulo, Leste (USP Leste), Universidade Federal da Bahia, Universidade Federal Rural de Pernambuco, Universidade Estadual de Campinas (UNICAMP), and Fundacao Joaquim Nabuco (FUNDAJ).

The study tour was part of IIE's year-long International Academic Partnership Program (IAPP) for Brazil, which seeks to help universities in the U.S. formulate a plan for strategic and sustainable partnerships with institutions in Brazil. Originally funded by the U.S. Department of Education's Fund for the Improvement of Postsecondary Education (FIPSE), IAPP has been a major initiative of IIE’s Center for International Partnerships in Higher Education since 2009 and seeks to increase the number of international partnerships between higher education institutions in the U.S. and those abroad.

The governments of both countries are investing in the bilateral relationship with unprecedented commitment. At a time when U.S. government budgets are shrinking in several sectors, the U.S. mission in Brazil plans to open two new consulates in Porto Alegre and Belo Horizonte. The PDPI Program (Programa de Desenvolvimento Profissional para Professores de Língua Inglesa nos EUA) that sends cohorts of basic education teachers to the U.S. for short-term professional and English language training has expanded from under 50 participants to an anticipated 1080 in 2014. This is not to mention the mobility initiative of the century, Ciências sem Fronteiras, or the Brazil Scientific Mobility Program, that is well on track to its goal of sending 101,000 STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math) students abroad for academic training and research. The program, which is meant to ensure a technologically savvy and innovative Brazilian workforce, has breathed new life into the relationship between U.S. and Brazilian higher education institutions. The U.S. is slated to receive the majority of the 27,500 Brazilian undergraduates going abroad for one year of study and academic training.

More significant than the immediate effects of Brazilian institutions sending their students and American institutions receiving them, the Brazil Scientific Mobility Program is planting the seeds for deep academic relationships that will last well into the future. Throughout the study tour, representatives from institutions in both countries acknowledged the reality that, while one day the funding may end, the linkages that were made through the exchange of students will have been the critical catalyst for more robust and multi-dimensional partnerships.

There are infinite opportunities and commitment from both sides to develop sustainable partnerships, and the U.S. delegates walked away from the week with a host of new ideas and inspiration. The opportunity for intensive language classes in both English and Portuguese, shared interest in the relationship between the university in the community, common distance learning techniques, and a bilateral concern for workforce development are just some of the areas that will tie institutions together. Expanding upon others’ successes and lessons learned, these institutions will look not only at the STEM fields but also to the humanities and trans-disciplinary teaching methodologies; they will seek out innovative agreements, such as trilateral partnerships with the private sector or institutions in third countries.

But the partnerships between the U.S. and Brazil also pose a number of challenges. Primary among the list of challenges facing U.S.-Brazil engagement is language barrier. Only the most established Brazilian institutions have English language course offerings and even these are often quite limited. Conversely, language is also a challenge for American students, as Portuguese programs are scarce and generally small in the U.S. The delegation also identified funding as a major obstacle as shrinking university budgets mean that there are less discretionary funds available for partnership building activities. Finally, the difference between student service expectations at U.S. and Brazilian institutions poses challenges for student exchange partnerships, particularly in terms of U.S. student mobility to Brazil.

In the next phase of the IAPP initiative, U.S. educators will work to address some of these recommendations as they develop concrete plans for engagement with Brazilian higher education. Representatives of the fifteen U.S. institutions participating in IAPP will now return to their campuses to begin Phase II of the International Academic Partnership Program, building on the in-depth knowledge gained during the recent study tour. Together with an expert mentor chosen from among the IAPP Brazil Advisory Board, institutions will perform a critical review of their strategic plan for partnering with Brazil and ultimately develop a final report which will be used to garner support on their campuses.

The visit will also help the Brazilian host campuses develop relationships with U.S. higher education, as each of the Brazilian host institutions received a complimentary one-year membership to the IIENetwork, which will provide resources, contacts, and information to aid in their internationalization efforts and connect them to over 1,100 other institutions around the world.


About the IIE-led U.S. - Brazil higher education delegation

IIE’s International Academic Partnership Program, a major program of IIE’s Center for International Partnerships in Higher Education, helps U.S. colleges in their internationalization efforts by guiding them through a strategic planning process specifically for developing transformative partnerships with institutions in other countries.The U.S. campuses in the IAPP Brazil program are: Arizona State University, Ball State University, California State University – Long Beach, Central College, Fort Hays State University, Howard University, Indian Hills Community College, Morgan State University, Parsons The New School for Design, Savannah State University, the State University of New York College at Plattsburg, the University of Tulsa, Washington and Jefferson College, Webster University, and Western Michigan University.


About the Institute of International Education

The Institute of International Education is a world leader in the international exchange of people and ideas. An independent, not-for-profit organization founded in 1919, IIE has a network of 19 offices and affiliates worldwide and over 1,200 member institutions. IIE designs and implements programs of study and training for students, educators, young professionals and trainees from all sectors with funding from government agencies, foundations, and corporations. IIE also conducts policy research and program evaluations, and provides advising and counseling on international education and opportunities abroad.

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