Project 5-100 and Brazilian universities on the road to effective cooperationDecember 12, 2014
The leaders of the largest Brazilian universities came to Russia for an official visit, stopping in Moscow, St. Petersburg and Yekaterinburg. Their stay was packed with numerous events which enabled them to gain fuller understanding of Project 5-100 in particular and of Russian higher education in general.
The first meeting between the Brazilian delegation and their Russian counterparts from Project 5-100 was held in the National Research University MEPhI, where everyone sat down with the rector, Michael Strikhanov, and members of the management board, leading researchers, and management--level personnel from the UNIDO Center for International Industrial Cooperation. The Parties shared mutual interest in academic exchanges, summer schools symposiums, seminars, joint educational, cultural and science projects. The visit continued with a tour of the university: the Brazilians visited the NEVOD research and education center, the laser center, nanocenter and other facilities, and talked to the staff, students and postgraduates. Carlos Alexandre Netto (Rector of the Federal University Rio Grande do Sul) later said that the level of research projects and the modern equipment of MEPhI made quite an impression on him and his colleagues.
After spending time with physicists, the delegation went to meet representatives of the social sciences from the National Research University HSE. There, Rector Yaroslav Kuzminov made a presentation about his university, emphasizing that HSE is ready to become a strategic partner for Brazilian universities and to take from 50 to 100 students from that country. In this regard, HSE has already got its foot in the door – there are currently two Brazilian students enrolled in HSE. The Brazilian contingent spoke of its interest in setting up international labs, conducting joint research in the sphere of urban studies, and using HSE’s extensive experience with implementation of English-language educational programs and commercial partnership.
The second day of the visit was dedicated entirely to meetings with Project 5-100 leadership and university rectors within the framework of the Russo-Brazilian seminar on academic cooperation. The meeting was opened by Grigory Andruschak (Director of the Department of Strategy, Analysis and Forecasting of the Ministry of Education and Science of the Russian Federation) who spoke about the history of Russian higher education and the recent trends. He reminded his audience that there are 36 times fewer Brazilian students in Russian universities than students from India or China and drew everyone’s attention to the fact that there is a lot of potential for cooperation in this sphere. “Project 5-100 must become a testing platform for Russo-Brazilian academic cooperation”, Andruschak summed up. José Celso Freire Jr. (President of the Brazilian Association for International Education (FAUBAI)) spoke about the academic opportunities in his country. He showed a short video about Brazil and told about the structure, scope, the financing system, professional unions and special higher education programs. He also quoted statistics for the number of universities, students and lecturers. The FAUBAI President spoke about the importance of Project 5-100 as a single formalized government strategy in the sphere of higher education and added that, unfortunately, despite the fact that the Brazilian government is working on a similar program, it is not being realized. The topic was continued in the report made by Mikhail Antonov (Director of the Project Office 5-100), who spoke about the achievements and plans of the Project.
The discussion of possible cooperation opportunities between the two countries was continued by Anísio Brasileiro de Freitas Dourado (Rector of Pernambuco Federal University and President of the Committee for International Affairs of the National Association of Rectors of Federal Universities (CRIA/ANDIFES)). He listed the spheres of research that are of interest for the Brazilian side: physics, chemistry, engineering, pharmaceuticals, agricultural technologies, renewable energy, biomedicine, telecommunications, anthropology, history and cultural studies. Based on the proposals made by the representatives of Project 5-100, the parties agreed to create a catalogue of specializations which are interesting for both countries.
The meeting continued with a discussion of the instruments and tools for the future cooperation between Russian and Brazilian universities. The parties worked out the following main cooperation formats: joint departments, workshops, and academic and student mobility.
On 3 December, the members of the delegation had a working meeting with the Deputy Minister for Education and Science of the Russian Federation Alexander Povalko. He was informed by Anisio Brasileiro and his colleagues about the results of the seminar on the previous day. In his turn, Alexander Povalko confirmed the intent of the Russian side to establish strong ties between Russian and Brazilian universities. “What helps us keep up with the level of training and the quality of research is the fact that we are trying to find non-standard approaches” said Povalko. “In addition, we have similar national priorities – oil and everything related to its mining, refining and environmental problems as well as agriculture and transport”. The cooperation program will be finally formulated during the return visit of the Russian delegation to Brazil next year.
In the evening, the South American visitors attended the BRICS & Emerging Economies Universities Summit organized by Project 5-100 and the British Times Higher Education (THE) magazine and took part in the award ceremony for the BRICS & Emerging Economies Universities Rankings
On 4 December, the Brazilian delegation participated in the conference at the National Research University MISiS where rectors of the world’s best universities were featured as speakers. Being hospitable hosts, the leadership of MISiS including Alevtina Chernikova (Rector of MISiS) organized a tour of the university for the Brazilian guests.
At the conference, Brazilian higher education was represented by Marilza Vieira Cunha Rudge (Acting Rector of the University of Sao Paolo (UNESP)). During the discussion panel Rudge shared UNESP experience in the struggle for leadership, the challenges which have to be answered, and the efforts currently being made in solving various pressing tasks. Jaime Artuoru Ramirez (Rector of the University Minas Gerais (UFMG) and Carlos Netto also spoke at the conference. They talked about their universities’ academic excellence programs, government support, opportunities to study in English, the role of rankings, etc. “Ratings are tools helping us to adjust our path, but we are not obsessed with them”, said Netto.
The final destination of the Brazilian delegation in Moscow was the visit to MIPT, where the Brazilians met with the leadership of Phystech. Nikolai Kudryavtsev (MIPT Rector) talked about the history of this celebrated institution, its founders and famous alumni as well as about its modern achievements and future plans. The visitors visited the university’s research labs and museum and discussed potential collaboration opportunities with several department heads.
On 6 December, our Brazilian guests were greeted by Project 5-100 participants in St. Petersburg. The first university to meet the Brazilian delegation was ITMO. Vladimir Nikiforov (Provost for Research) introduced the delegates to his university and some of its most promising research projects. The Brazilians visited the School of Urban Transformations, the university business incubator QD and the E-science Institute. The collection of the Museum of Optics and the customized tour given by Sergei Kozlov (Head of Photonics and Optics Information) made a big impression on the delegates. The part of the delegation which was visiting Yekaterinburg at that time and could not attend the meeting had the chance to catch up and visit ITMO on 9 December when a meeting with the Rector Vladimir Vasiliev was organized. Brazilian university leaders were open to ITMO’s proposal to start with small joint steps, such as joint training for athletic programming before the May finals of the ACM ICPC in Morocco.
The next item on this super-intensive agenda was the visit to St. Petersburg State Polytechnic University. During the negotiations with the leadership of the university led by Dmitry Arsenyev (Provost for International Affairs), the Brazilian delegation talked about the priority lines of potential cooperation with St. Petersburg – electrical engineering, IT, communications, technology, and resource saving. The foreign visitors were then invited to take a tour of SPbSPU where they got the opportunity to see the Laser Center, Computer Engineering Center and other interesting facilities.
The members of the delegation also participated in the quarterly seminar-conference of Project 5-100 where they conducted a round table: “System of Higher Education in Brazil: presentation and collaboration opportunities”. Jose Selso Freire was the main speaker at the round table. In his presentation he repeatedly emphasized the high level of qualification of Brazilian students which can be explained by extremely tough competition for free university enrollment. He gave the following example to illustrate his point: “The average contest in my university is 30-40 people per slot and more than 220 in the medical department”.
Finally, on 9 December, the Brazilian delegation visited LETI University. The Rector, Vladimir Kutuzov, and other university leaders, organized a meeting in the conference hall of the university where the Brazilian delegates were introduced to the history and academic achievements of the university as well as the university’s bachelor’s and master’s programs. After the discussion, the visitors were taken on a tour of the university’s biotechnical and electronics labs. The Brazilians had a chance to speak with the staff and students of the University, and to visit the first historic building of LETI, the university library and the memorial museum-laboratory of the inventor of the radio – A. Popov.
The Brazilian delegation has only positive impressions of their multi-day tour of the university-participants in Project 5-100. Before this visit, few were familiar with Russian higher education. The visitors were impressed with the qualifications of the universities’ faculty, the modern research infrastructure and the good command of English demonstrated by both the students and the professors. They were also touched by the fact that the memory of outstanding scientists who used to work in these universities is cherished and that academic traditions are widely respected. As far as Russo-Brazilian cooperation is concerned – the first step has been taken. The parties have settled on mutually interesting spheres, established direct contacts, learned about the strengths of their future partners and determined the priorities for future collaboration. Let us hope that Russia and Brazil, united, will be able to enrich each other’s higher schools and achieve amazing results together.