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Brazilian Universities Have Blackout of Engineering Professors

04/21/2014 - 09h03

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FÁBIO TAKAHASHI
FROM SÃO PAULO

One of the new federal universities in the country, UFABC (SP), waited for eight months to hire an engineering professor to teach aerodynamics.

Earlier this month, a candidate applied for the job, which provides stability, a research laboratory and a starting salary of over US$ 3,500.

"We were anxious. But the day before the test he called and said he was not coming. The market is paying much more," said Annibal Hetem Junior, director of the university's engineering center.

Official figures and leaders of universities show that higher education is now facing a new stage of the problem of a lack of engineers.

Even a decade ago, the productive sector complained about the small number of professionals. A study by the National Confederation of Industry indicates that 61% of businesses do not find enough engineers for production.

New positions in courses have been opened, especially in federal institutions. But now professors are missing.

The MEC sensus shows that, from 2010 to 2012 (the last time period with available data), the number of freshmen in the area grew 65%. The number of professors grew just 21%.

In federal universities in São Paulo (UFABC, Unifesp and UFSCar), 18 of 35 positions available for engineering professors in the last 12 months ended up not being filled. That's double those in other areas during the same period, according to an analysis by Folha of 168 openings.

"There's a shortage across the country," said Gustavo Balduíno, executive secretary of Andifes (the entity that represents federal rectors).

This year, student protests took place at Uberaba University (MG) and on the Erechim (RS) campus of the Fronteira Sul federal university. Students complained about the lack of professors and also demanded better quality.

"There's a lack of engineers and also of engineering professors. They go where the pay is higher, and we still require a doctorate," said the representative of the rectors.

At Unifesp, for example, the starting salary of a professor is US$ 3,700 - with a doctorate, which requires an average of six years of study after earning a bachelor's degree. For a position currently available at Petrobras, a recent graduate starts his or her career at US$ 3,600.

"Often we see institutions hiring professors who have yet to study material they'll have to teach, with a complete lack of academic or professional experience," said Vanderli Fava de Oliveira, director of communications at the Brazilian Association of Engineering Education and professor at Juiz de Fora federal university (MG).

Translated by JILL LANGLOIS

Read the article in the original language