Brazil: Pathways for the Future


In 2013, the number of Brazilians studying in the U.S. increased by 20% from the previous year (IIE, Open Doors 2013) [3], making it one of the fastest growing source countries for international students in the U.S.

Despite these gains, the U.S. may be losing traction. In 2012, 40% of Brazilian students opted to study in Europe rather than the U.S [4]., compared to 2007, when Europe was host to approximately 30% of all internationally mobile Brazilian students. There is reason to believe, however, that U.S. dominance will rebound due to the adoption of a series of policies designed to increase student mobility, particularly to the U.S.

Brazil’s largest initiative (US$1.7 billion) for student mobility – “Ciência sem Fronteiras [5] or Scientific Mobility Program [6] (formerly known as Science Without Borders Program) – is currently in its second phase and plans to offer an additional 100,000 scholarships over the next four years, with at least half of recipients likely to head to the U.S. to study science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) fields.

Currently, only 22% of Brazilian students [7] studying in the U.S. are majoring in STEM fields, as compared to nearly 43% of Chinese and 73% of Indian students.  With scholarships now being offered through the Scientific Mobility Program (SMP), a shift toward STEM disciplines among Brazilian students is expected.  The majority of students receiving SMP scholarships will study abroad during their junior year [8] and return to their Brazilian universities to complete their degrees.

The Brazilian effort has been accompanied by changes to U.S. government policies [9]. Since 2012, the U.S. government has doubled the number of Fulbright Scholar Awards for Brazilians and it is currently pursuing an ambitious expansion of three English language programs: English3(or “English-cubed”), English Access Micro-Scholarship and UP with English. This expansion is designed to improve the English-language skills of Brazilian students, and to “prepare the next generation of Brazilian students studying in the United States [9].”

Since 2002, enrollment growth among Brazilian students in the U.S., at both the undergraduate and graduate levels, has remained under 10%. This trend appears to have shifted in 2014. According to the CGS International Graduate Admissions Survey (2014) [10], the number of applications from Brazil increased by 61%, indicating a very significant upward trajectory. However, this growth seems to be driven by “non-degree” students, which includes those enrolled in intensive English language programs. In 2013 alone, this group of students registered a 70% increase compared to 2012.

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It may be too soon to start noticing the effects of the recent policies implemented by both governments, but it is clear that Brazilian students have a renewed interest in the U.S., its culture and its language. It is important for HEIs to take notice of Brazil as one of the top emerging markets for international recruitment [7], as these measures will improve the likelihood of attracting a bigger share of this promising market.
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WES Research & Advisory Services [2] offers research-based consulting solutions on student mobility, international enrollment, and transnational education.

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