Brazilian Exchange Students Criticized
The University of Southampton in England has complained about the lack of dedication from Brazilian students in the Science Without Borders Program (Ciência sem Fronteiras)
Last week, scholarship-holders in this exchange program at the British university all received an email from the government program saying it had been notified by the university of “the large number of complaints concerning Brazilian exchange students regarding attendance and commitment.”
The email read in part: “It is very disappointing to us to learn that performance has been low, and that [students] have not worked hard. . . . This, however, does not hold true for everyone. I would like to ask [those in this situation] to work harder and fulfill all commitments made.” Program coordinators replied to the university by requesting a list with the names of scholarship-holders who were performing insufficiently.
The University of Southampton is regarded among the world’s most renowned universities for research. In 2013, it welcomed 38 Brazilian students as part of the program, and is preparing to receive 33 more.
Denise Leal, an engineering student in the program said, “I found the message offensive, as I have shown commitment, but I see their point. Most students in the program do not engage very actively because the Brazilian government doesn’t demand anything from them in exchange. If you want to study, you go ahead and study. If you don’t, you travel, because the government doesn’t require any results. The money granted is more than enough, so they’d rather travel and skip classes, as there’s no roll call,” she declared.
When questioned about the email, program coordinators replied that the message “Should not have gone to all the students at the university. This was an administrative error,” adding that “UK Universities regularly tell us how diligent, hardworking, and high-calibre our students are. Many of the exchange students have won prizes and awards, while others have been featured in the media both in the UK and Brazil. Brazilian students are also helping to build long-term links and create research partnerships.”
The Science Without Borders Program was launched in 2011 as a joint effort of the Ministry of Education (MEC) and the Ministry of Science and Technology (MCT) through their respective funding agencies – CAPES and CNPq. – with the purpose of granting 100 thousand international scholarships in the fields of technology, health, hard sciences, mathematics, and engineering.
The problem of students that use scholarship money for non-academic purposes is not restricted to the UK program. Medical student Mário Vasconcelos, who took part in the Science Without Borders program at a German university, said that Brazilian students in Germany would “take whichever tests we wanted. There were no demands from Brazil. All I had to prove was my return,” he revealed, adding that during his stay abroad, he “met a lot of people who didn’t attend a single class.”
Carolina Marques, who went to Australia, declared that “over 50 percent of scholarship-holders do not take their studies seriously. That was so much the case that when I left Australia I felt embarrassed to say I had participated in the program. I ended up avoiding being among Brazilians, because many of them openly said they were there to travel and use up the money from the scholarship.”
Brazil’s Education Minister, Henrique Paim commented, “As we have students going to and arriving from overseas, we realize that we still have to review and rethink our higher education. Abroad they have a more hands-on approach, and that’s what we’re working on.”
[This article was written by Mariana Tokarnia and appeared on the Brazzil.com website. It was edited by CIE.]