Brazil's scholarship suspension an opportunity for agents

13 October, 2015

The Brazilian government has suspended further funding grants through its flagship Science without Borders overseas education scholarship programme, threatening enrolment rates in several destination countries but potentially creating an opportunity for the country’s agency sector.

Maura Lećo (third right), President of Brazilian agency Belta

The Ministry of Education recently announced that the nationwide programme, launched in 2011 to provide scholarships for Brazilian students in the STEM subjects, will cease for an indefinite period.

The scholarship has been revised to reflect the economic reality of the country, the ministry said, indicating that the unfavourable exchange rate between the real and the dollar had increased the cost of the scheme.

The Brazilian real has fallen from a rate of US$0.44 in September 2014 to US$0.26 at the time of writing.

According to the Folha de S.Paulo newspaper, the budget for 2016 has been cut by 40.3 per cent to R$2.1 billion (US$559 million), enough to cover current scholarships to students that have already commenced studies overseas, thought to total around 35,000.

Maura Leão, President of Brazil’s national agency association Belta, told StudyTravel (ST) Magazine, “We all understand this is a necessary measure for the economical moment we are facing.”

However, Leão said the suspension of government funding could increase demand for self-funded higher education study abroad programmes, potentially creating business opportunities for agents. “It is positive for the agencies, considering that we have the know how to provide higher education and language preparation, among other services, to students.”

Although agents were not directly involved in Science without Borders, which was largely administered by universities, Leão said they had indirectly benefitted from the promotion of the value of study abroad through the scheme. “The positive aspect about the programme towards the agencies is that it awoke in Brazil, even more, the necessity of investing in courses and programmes abroad.”

A recent survey of 61 Brazilian university international office directors, conducted before the suspension of scholarship funding, found that 76 per cent of participants believed self-funded higher education overseas would increase over the next three years.

Mariglan Gabarra, Executive Director of Belta, indicated to ST Magazine earlier this year that demand for higher education programmes had been increasing steadily, and ST Magazine’s most recent survey of Brazilian agencies in March found that higher education programmes accounted for 10 per cent of business in the previous 12 months, compared with only four per cent in the previous survey.   

The suspension of Science without Borders will concern a number of destination countries that have benefitted from the scheme.

In the last Open Doors report on 2013/14 international student enrolment at colleges and universities in the USA, Brazil entered the top ten source markets with a 22.2 per cent increase.

Australia recorded 26.6 per cent growth in student visa-holding Brazilian students in 2014, according to government data, while Ireland also revealed a huge increase in Brazilian students as a result of the scholarship.

Matthew Knott
News Editor


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