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Science Without Borders Program To Be Suspended

09/03/2015 - 09h02



Owing to lack of funds, the Planalto Palace has decided to suspend the offer of new scholarships as part of the program Science Without Borders for next year.

As Folha has learnt, the budget defined by the government's economic team for next year, a total of R$2.1 billion (USD $559 million), is only enough to cover students who are already living abroad on the program.

The Coordination of Improvement of Higher Education Students (CAPES, in its Portuguese acronym) said that the designated resources would be used to "pay for 13,330 scholarships amongst undergraduates and postgraduates" in 2016, under its supervision.

The National Council of Scientific and Technological Development (CNPQ), another government agency that encourages research, will be allocated resources for another 22,610 scholarships.

In total, both institutions will send 14,050 undergraduates abroad in the second semester of this year. This group of students enters the program under last year's selection process. Undergraduates account for the majority of those enrolled in the program, with 79.5% of the scholarships granted.

Zanone Fraissat/Folhapress
There is currently no date defined for the call of new applications to the program.
There is currently no date defined for the call of new applications to the program.

Advisors to President Rousseff have admitted that the government was considering an even harsher cut to the program, but the idea was rejected owing to the likely negative effects it would produce.

The cut for Science Without Borders next year is 40.3% from last year's budget of R$3.5 billion (USD $931 million). Cutting just one percentage point more would mean disrupting the studies of those who have already been selected and left for university abroad.

Launched in July 2011, the program has become one of President Rousseff's flagship policies. After the creation of 101,000 places by last year, the promise for her second term was to create another 100,000.

The high value of the dollar, however, has drastically increased the cost of program. The program pays foreign universities for the tuition of Brazilian students, as well as providing maintenance grants to the students themselves.

While in July 2011 the dollar was worth R$1.55, now the exchange rate is close to R$3.70. There is currently no date defined for the call of new applications to the program. Last year, the selection process began in August.

The current expectation is that if the government allocates more funds for the program next year, the main focus will be postgraduates. Questioned on this, Capes would not comment.

The agency said, "All the Ministry of Education programs will be maintained" in 2016. "The Ministry is conducting a detailed analysis of the budget in order to determine the scope of the programs for next year," it said in a statement.

If Science Without Borders is suspended in 2016, another federal education program will be significantly expanded next year, according to the budget provisions.

In 2016, the government is expected to offer five million places on technical courses and on the National Program of Access to Technical Education and Employment (PRONATEC), both for those enrolling in the program as well as those continuing their training.

This year, thanks to budget cuts, the numbers offered places on the program fell to nearly a million, 66.6% less than the three million in 2014. Added to the cost of covering those already enrolled, the total cost of the program in 2015 is R$4 billion (USD $1.1 billion).

After hitting its target of enrolling eight million students, the government's aim was to enroll 12 million new students in its second term. If 2016's targets are reached, the government will achieve exactly 50% of the target in the first two years of its second term.

Translated by TOM GATEHOUSE

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