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Brazil: self-funded students on the rise

The number of Brazilian students studying abroad through full fee-paying undergraduate and master’s degrees is expected to increase, according to a recent survey by BMI of international officers.

Pontificia Universidade Catolica de Minas, in Belo Horizonte, Brazil Photo: BMI

Of the surveyed universities, 65% are located in a major city, while 57% of respondents have over 20,000 students enrolled on campus

The survey, which was sent to directors of international offices at Brazilian universities, found that 76% of respondents are expecting some form of increase in the number of students who will pay for an undergraduate or master’s programme overseas, in the next three years.

“This has been boosted by the positive experiences that many of the Brazilians have had after participating in the Brazil government scholarship programme”

Of the respondents, 40% said they are expecting to see a 10% increase in students undertaking these programmes overseas, while 17% said they expected fee-paying students to increase by a quarter.

This is the first time this particular survey has been conducted, and Samir Zaveri, President and CEO of BMI, said the study was motivated by a noticeable rise in the number of students willing to pay for overseas study.

“This has been boosted by the positive experiences that many of the Brazilians have had after participating in the Brazil government scholarship programme,” he told The PIE News.

“But it is also due to the lack of spaces at the best institutions within the country.”

The survey was carried out in May by BMI, with help from Brazil’s international education association FAUBAI, and received responses from 61 directors.

Of the surveyed universities, 65% are located in a major city, while 57% of respondents have over 20,000 students enrolled on campus.

In 2013, 365,000 Brazilian students studied overseas, around 15% of whom went for undergraduate or postgraduate study.

Zaveri noted that the competitiveness of higher education institutions in Brazil also contributes to many students looking to do their degrees abroad, adding also that the “cost of education itself in Brazil has been increasing”.

Furthermore, the growth of the middle class cohort in the country has contributed to the rise in students going abroad. According to research by FGV, the C class increased by almost 40 million people between 2003 and 2011.

The OECD categorises this class as earning between BRL1734 (USD$485) and BRL7475 (USD$2134) per month.

“There’s obviously a very small percentage of the C class that are sending students abroad but as they are the largest part of the population, they are making up the majority of students going abroad,” said Zaveri.

“Whereas if you had gone back 10 years, you’d say that 90% of people going abroad were just from the A and B [classes].”

Still, despite indications that self-funded Brazilians are on the rise, another survey response found that offering scholarships for a semester or a year was the most influential factor for 47% of international directors at Brazilian universities to send their students abroad.

Meanwhile, 40% said establishing an exchange programme was the most influential factor.

Zaveri said that Brazilian international directors are trying to ensure that as many students as possible have an international experience.

“There is no better promotion than word of mouth and a personal recommendation”

“To gain their influence, they ask for scholarships as it helps them to achieve their objectives,” he said.

“But the students that come back will tell them about their experience and if it’s positive, the directors are more likely to refer more students there.”

Last year, the Brazilian government announced a further 100,000 students would be eligible to study abroad through the government scholarship programme, Science without Borders.

The first phase of the programme, implemented in 2011, sent 101,000 students to overseas institutions.

However, due to the recent budget cuts implemented by the government, Zaveri doesn’t expect the number of students going abroad will be as high initially as in the first phase, but added that “they certainly will pick up because they are allocated to go”.

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