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Students Wanted

Brazil gets on the map of Harvard and Yale universities, who are recruiting students in the country

KRIS SNIBBE/HARVARD UNIVERSITY NEWS OFFICEGraduating at Harvard: the donation from the Brazilian entrepreneur set up the study grants programKRIS SNIBBE/HARVARD UNIVERSITY NEWS OFFICE

Harvard University, with 370 years of existence and a legacy of 40 Nobel Prize winners, occupies 1st place in the ranking of the best universities in the world carried out by the British newspaper The Times. Yale University, with 305 years and 19 Nobel Prize winners, is in 8th place in the same ranking. Now these two American institutions are interested in recruiting Brazilian students and in expanding their academic influence in the country. First it was Yale, who in June of this year sent one of its directors on international questions, João Aleixo from Mozambique, down to Brazil to establish contact with national institutions and to initiate the organization of Yale Week, an event that will bring to the country next year Yale directors entrusted with the admission of undergraduate and post-graduate students. “We want the best students in the world and Brazil, just like China and India, is one of our focal points”, explains Aleixo. This push outwards makes up part of their strategy, planned out into the third century of Yale, to turn itself into a global university.

Now it is the turn of Harvard, who starting from August is putting into operation its office in São Paulo, the 43rd of the institution set up abroad and the 2nd in South America (the first is located in Santiago, Chile). The Harvard goal is more ambitious and articulated. The office, directed by the executive Jason Dyett, was installed on Avenida Paulista and is going to serve as an attraction point for Brazilian students and also as a support base for research and the activities of Harvard professors and students in Brazil.

The initiatives are an attempt to widen the presence, as yet modest, of Brazilians in the two institutions. “The interest of these universities is highly positive. The number of Brazilians who graduate abroad is negligible and even in post-graduation the interchange is much smaller that in other countries with the dimensions of Brazil”, says the ex-minister of education, Paulo Renato Souza. “Higher education in the country is still very closed off as far as going abroad is concerned. This made sense when the strategy was to create a strong system of post-graduation, but we already have this today”, says  Souza. FAPESP’s president, Carlos Vogt, highlighted the marketing question present in this type of recruitment. “This is an expansion strategy of the academic market, well in line with the profile of these institutions”, he says.

Harvard currently houses 64 Brazilian students. The number of Chinese at the institution is five times higher. At Yale, the picture repeats itself: there are 35 Brazilians as opposed to 307 Chinese. “Brazil is the sixth largest country in the world, but is under represented at Yale”, says d K. David Jackson, the director of undergraduate studies in Portuguese at Yale. “In Latin America, which at times is looked upon as a block, Brazil doesn’t have the weight that it deserves, but tends to gain emphasis and be highlighted by its size and importance”, stated Jason Dyett, the director of Harvard’s Brazilian office, to the newspaper Folha de S. Paulo.

It is not the intention of the two institutions to create courses in Brazil. At meetings that took place at the University of São Paulo (USP), João Aleixo, Yale’s director, discussed the possibility of American professors spending periods of time and participating in events in Brazil. Both institutions will create ways to recruit undergraduate and postgraduate students and promise grants for students who cannot pay – the annuity for a graduation course at Harvard doesn’t come out below US$ 45,000. At Yale, the average annual cost is US$ 40,000. “As yet the number of grants has not been defined, but they’ll be annual, in the areas of education, public health and government. Anyone who manages to enter will not be stopped from going because of lack of money”, says Dyett. The office will help to implement a new study grant program and one of research assistance that will allow Harvard to recruit Brazilian students for graduation as well as in the programs of postgraduation at the School of Education, School of Public Health and Kennedy School of Government, independently from the financial condition of the student, according to director Dyett.

The installation of the Harvard office in São Paulo is the unfolding of a partnership that began in 1999, thanks to a donation made to the David Rockefeller Center for Harvard’s Latin American Studies by the entrepreneur Jorge Paulo Lemann, one of the owners of the Ambev brewery and the Lojas Americanas stores, who graduated in 1961 at the institution. Donations of this type, as yet rare in Brazil, are common at American universities. Ex-students who become rich frequently leave part of their fortune to the university from which they graduated. Thanks to the donation by Lemann, the center has already received dozens of grant holders and visiting professors from Brazil. During the first semester of 2005, the center sponsored the Brazilian Semester of Harvard, with seminars, workshops and conferences. “The support from Lemann was fundamental to place Brazil on the mental map of Harvard”, says  John Coatsworth, a director at the David Rockefeller Center.

Now a new donation of US$ 5 million made by  Lemann has made the installation of the office in Sao Paulo possible, as well as the new grants for Brazilian students in Harvard and Harvard students in Brazil in the areas of education, health and public administration. Last year 19 Harvard students received grants to study and participate in research projects in Brazil. Among them there was even a physics student developing technology for ecological stoves at a company in the city of Belo Horizonte, named the Ecofogão (Ecostove), as well as doctorate students researching the impact of the affirmative action policies on the rates of inequality in cities such as Brasilia, Curitiba, Salvador and Rio de Janeiro. “The United States, just like Harvard, has never paid enough  attention to what’s happening in Brazil”, says  the Brazilian expert Kenneth Maxwell, a visiting professor from the David Rockefeller Center. Maxwell said that he is going to work in partnership with the director of the university’s Paulista office to “guarantee that we combine both initiatives of Harvard in Brazil with initiatives of Brazil in Harvard”.