Citizens from all over the developing world can apply for scholarships in masters and doctoral courses in Brazil, through the Postgraduate Student Agreement Program (PEC-PG), managed by the National Council for Scientific and Technological Development (CNPq), the Foundation for Improvement of Higher Education Students (Capes), and the Ministry of Foreign Relations.
This year, Egypt, Lebanon and Syria entered the list of countries that may send students. The inclusion of these nations was announced last week by a Brazilian delegation during the third meeting of high-level officials of Arab and South American governments, held in Cairo.
"Only people from developing countries that have agreements with Brazil in the culture and education sectors are eligible," said Maria Luiza Pereira Carvalho, who is in charge of the PEC-PG at Capes. Nevertheless, according to a statement approved in Cairo, other Arab countries should become part of the list in upcoming years.
Established in 1983, the program includes all fields of knowledge, and is aimed at encouraging educational and scientific exchange between Brazil and Latin American countries, the Caribbean, Asia, Africa and the Middle East. The idea is to enroll foreigners in the best postgraduate courses available in Brazil, preferably in public universities.
The next edict for enrollment in the program should be issued in April, and candidates must meet a series of requirements, such as presenting a Certificate of Proficiency in Portuguese Language for Foreigners (CELPE-Bras) – for which a test is conducted twice a year, in April and October -, along with a graduate diploma, a letter of acceptance from the Brazilian institution where they intend to study, and a study plan; candidates must also have verifiable employment in their country of origin, among others requirements.
According to the general manager at the international cooperation office at CNPq, Maria Lucilene Velo, the first thing students should do is to contact a supervisor at a Brazilian university and obtain a letter of acceptance from the institution.
Candidates should enroll and hand in the documents at the Brazilian Diplomatic Representation (embassy or consulate) in his or her home country, which should also conduct the CELPE-Bras test.
In addition to objective criteria, such as presentation of documents, the Brazilian institutions in charge of the project conduct a profile analysis before accepting or turning down candidates.
"We will check, for instance, whether the candidate is qualified for teaching, because some countries have a shortage of human resources, therefore it is important to train people who are capable of multiplying their knowledge," said Lucilene.
The candidate's field of interest will also be analyzed. For example, priority will be granted to sectors in which the candidate's country of origin has shortcomings, or is interest in developing.
"Our goal is also to work in fields that are strategic for the country," she claimed. The scientific relevance of submitted projects will also be evaluated, and those with the higher level will be selected.
Masters scholarships are under the responsibility of CNPq, and consist of a monthly allowance of 940 reais (US$ 445) for up to 24 months, plus a ticket back to the student's country of origin. Capes will handle doctorate scholarships, which include a monthly allowance of 1,394 reais (US$ 660) for up to 48 months and the return ticket after course conclusion.
There is not a predetermined number of positions available. In the case of masters courses, from 80 to 90 scholarships were granted per year over the last three years.
Additional information regarding enrollment and the selection process can be obtained in the Brazilian Diplomatic Representations in the candidate's countries, or in the organizations in charge of the project.
In addition to the PEC-PG, Brazil offers another scholarship program, aimed at doctoral and postdoctoral courses, in partnership with the Academy of Sciences for the Developing World (TWAS). In this case, the candidate's country is not required to have an educational or cultural agreement with Brazil. "The program applies to any developing country," Lucilene said.
According to the CNPq, Arab students and researchers have been to or are currently in Brazil thanks to the program. One Egyptian candidate was approved in 2004, two Egyptians and one Iraqi in 2005, and two other Egyptians and an Iraqi in 2006.
The latter will initiate their scholarships this year. The current president of the Academy is the Brazilian mathematician Jacob Palis, and the last congress of the organization was held last year in Brazil.
The program for long-term scholarships in partnership with TWAS was established in 2004, and offers 40 positions per year. But a program for short-term scholarships, of up to 90 days, has existed since the 1980s, aimed at specific training programs. Candidates must enroll at the TWAS Website (see below), but first they must seek the university they are willing to attend.
Up until now, the certificate of proficiency in Portuguese language was not required in order to participate in this program, but this will change due to the adaptation problems faced by students, which even caused some to drop out. Knowledge of Portuguese, or at least of Spanish or English language will be required, depending on each case.
The agreement between the Brazilian government and the Academy favors the granting of scholarships for courses in the field of exact sciences.
Selected researchers are entitled to two-way tickets and an allowance during the two initial months, paid by TWAS, and to a monthly allowance, paid by the Brazilian government, of 1,394 reais (US$ 660) for doctoral courses and 2,218.56 reais (US$ 1,051) for postdoctoral courses. Short-term scholarship holders will receive daily allowances of 187 reais (US$ 88).
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