End of Brazil's scholarship an opportunity for agents
Friday, May 12, 2017
From ST Magazine
By Matthew Knott
12:24 | 10 May 2017
Brazil's Ministry of Education has formally announced that the Science without Borders study abroad scholarship will be ceased, two years after the programme was suspended, with Brazilian agents now eyeing more opportunities in privately funded higher education programmes.
In a statement issued last month, the Ministry said that after evaluation of the graduation rates, the costs of the scheme were considered too high. It highlighted that the budget was equivalent to the cost of providing school meals for 39 million students in Brazil.
"The current management found the programme with high debts left by the previous government. Students were abroad without resources. The first and immediate priority of the current management was to guarantee financial resources to honour the commitments made with the scholarship holders so as not to harm them," the Ministry said, explaining that around 4,000 students were currently still overseas under the Science without Borders project.
The Ministry added that the CAPES scholarship system remained open for funding for postgraduate and doctoral overseas study.
Maura Leão, President of Brazilian agency association Belta and President of the global Federation of Education and Language Consultant Associations (Felca), said the scheme, which mostly operated on an institution-to-institution basis, had nonetheless ignited an interest in higher education overseas, and the agency sector now had a chance to grow this business strand.
"For agencies we have now an opportunity to develop our higher education departments in a deeper way, once this programme has raised awareness among Brazilian students of the possibilities of going abroad for higher education. Even for those who are planning to go to a local university, they see an option to study abroad for a semester or longer."
She said that would require a lot of knowledge from consultants, a well-organised service and strong partnerships with institutions.
Maura suggested that some of the failings of the scholarship system could be addressed by the agency sector to ensure a successful study abroad experience.
"Consultants can properly screen the candidates according to their skills, language levels and financial capability and help them find the right choice of course at the right higher education institution. Consultants can help students find scholarships and have them on the right track. Unfortunately this was not done before and many students would go abroad without any previous language knowledge, which is mandatory to be successful in programmes such as these. Now there is an opportunity for agents to do this properly to help candidates be successful to be accepted."
The full-year Belta member data for 2016 is due to be released soon, but Maura said there had generally been more enquiries about university study abroad since the scholarship was suspended.
"More international institutions are approaching the market, promoting their universities. Many are doing this only through agents and investing a lot in their knowledge and training. Agents know the market and the local language of the decision makers," she added.
The association is holding an International Education Forum later this month, with higher education among the topics on the agenda.