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Explosive demand

FAPESP alters its criteria for the concession of master and doctorate scholarships

The number of scholarships handed out by FAPESP has tripled during the last four years. It grew from 3,556 in 1996 to 9,754 last year, reaching a level of investment of more than R$ 128 million a year. This extraordinary volume of investment runs the risk of unbalancing the desirable proportion between the resources destined to scholarships and the reserves to direct financial assistance, through which the Foundation finances the cost of material, direct or indirect, of the development of research projects, and which the Foundation has managed to keep steady during the last few years.

However, last year, with the increase in demand, the resources for scholarships grew and accounted for 37% of the total investment of the Foundation. The remaining 63% were destined to research assistance in its various forms, financing its material costs, such as equipment and consumers items among others. “National and international experience shows that a unbalance in the distribution of resources imperils the healthy development of the research system, to the point of removing from it the necessary conditions for the formation and adequate absorption of new researchers.” says Dr. José Fernando Perez, the Scientific Director of FAPESP.

To restore the necessary equilibrium, FAPESP has decided that it is not going to diminish the enormous investment in scholarships which it is currently carrying out, but, on the other hand, it will not be able to increase them without damaging the financing of the research system as a whole. Therefore, FAPESP will only approve the requests considered to be excellent in the question of: research project; recent productivity and competence of the advisor in the area which the project is inserted; and the qualifications of the candidate. The scholarships linked to thematic projects will not suffer in any way with this new procedure and all the assistance to research projects will continue with their normal flow. The line of scholarships for subject specialization, though, has been formally discontinued.

The Foundation is no longer extending master’s and doctorate scholarships, beyond the regulation period of 24 months in the case of a master’s and 48 months in the case of a doctorate. The extension of the time ended up harming the inclusion of new scholarships into the system.

Research system
The increase in demand for scholarships registered by FAPESP springs up mainly from the growth in the system of research in the state of São Paulo and is an indicator of the vitality of the Programs of Post Graduation. The scholarships handed out by FAPESP absorbed a good part of this demand as they are around 40% higher than the scholarships given out by the Federal Institutions and also they can count on technical reserve resources. Indeed, there is a relationship between the reduction in the numbers of scholarships handed out the Foundation Coordination for the Specialization of People in Higher Education (Capes) and by the National Council of Scientific and Technological Development (CNPq) in São Paulo, and the increase in the demand registered by the Foundation.

Nowadays, the number of scholarships for post graduation via FAPESP, both for masters and doctorates, is higher than that financed by each of the above mentioned Federal Agencies. Last year FAPESP distributed a total of 6,049 scholarships for masters and doctorates. On the other hand, Capes and the CNPq distributed, respectively, 4,302 and 4,075 scholarships during the same period of time. These numbers of scholarships of the Federal Agencies were obtained through the system Go Forward/CNPq. The last official numbers of CNPq, nonetheless, point to a total of 4,324 scholarships distributed in São Paulo last year, being 2,010 for masters and 2,314 for doctorates.

According to the Chief of the Staff of CNPq, Lélio Fellows Filho, the State of São Paulo received from the organ in the year 2000 R$ 130 million, being R$ 106 million for all the types of scholarships within the country, R$ 2.1 million for those abroad and R$ 21.3 million for incentives. “This distribution represents an allocation of 31% of the global resources of CNPq.” said Dr. Fellows. “Only the University of São Paulo (USP) receives 10.7%, a percentage greater than all of the allocation to the region of the North East and of all of the states of the country with the exceptions of Rio de Janeiro and of São Paulo.”

Capes hands out resources to institutions that can be used in the financing of scholarships for a period of 24 months, in the case of a masters, and of 48 months in the case of a doctorate. According to Dr. Luiz Valcov Loureiro, Director of the Programs of Capes, the reduction in the resources destined to the institutions of São Paulo is a consequence of a “national policy that links the concession of the scholarship to the length of the course.” The universities in the state of São Paulo, he continues, have the longest course periods in Brazil, especially in masters courses. By the criteria of evaluation by Capes, the period for the course counts points, in favor or against, for the establishing of grants passed on to the institutions.

Anyhow, in the opinion of the Scientific Director of FAPESP, the agencies should discuss the situation and work together, being necessary a joint effort to look at the re-definition of the Federal scholarships for São Paulo, which would permit meeting the growth of the qualified demand.