Report on CODOC project visit to Brazil

The Chair of UKCGE, Prof Mick Fuller, attended the EUA-CDE project visit hosted at Sao Paulo University (USP), Brazil. 

Report on CODOC project visit to Brazil

This was the 3rd site visit of the Erasmus Mundus funded CODOC project which aims to share doctoral training good practice between Europe, South America, the Far East and Southern Africa, previous visits had been made to Bangkok and Johannesburg. Mick, who was representing both the UKCGE and his own institution, Plymouth University, gave 2 presentations, firstly about the developments of the UK PhD environment over the last 20 years to the Vice President (Graduate Studies) and Deans of USP and secondly a workshop on engaging businesses with PhD training. The full official report of the meeting can be found on the EUA-CDE/CODOC website (

The meeting shared good practices in doctoral organisation and training among the delegates and particularly focussed on the situation in South America. The delegation learned of the commitment to doctoral and research masters training in Brazil, Venuzuela and Mexico and the continuing expanding HE sector and the need to populate the Universities with academic staff trained to PhD where only 50% of staff have PhD’s. USP lays claim to being the biggest trainer of PhD’s of any university in the world with one third of its 75,000 students being postgraduates and over 2,500 PhD graduates a year. Whilst most of these postgrads are Brazilian, USP also trains a large number from other South American countries. We also learned of the way PhD awarding powers are controlled and the need to obtain approval for a PhD programme from the funding bodies and the periodic evaluation that this entailed. Evaluation leads to a classification on a 1–6 scale where only 5 & 6 are regarded as being equivalent to the international level in Europe and the USA. The recent evaluation of the Brazilian in-house PhD programmes coupled with major Oil revenues has led the Brazilian Government (CAPES & CNPq funding agencies) to commit heavily to a new PhD initiative for collaborative international research. The Science without Borders” programme is a major initiative to establish lasting quality research collaborations through PhD training partnerships and it aims to award 10,000 PhD studentships for either full training abroad or for sandwich type programmes. The programme also has a commitment to undergraduate scholarships. For the UK the UUK International Office is acting as the brokering agent for the Science without Borders initiative (

The CODOC project set out to share good practices in doctoral training across 4 major regions of the world and has succeeded in cataloguing the similarities and differences between these regions. It has identified that there is already a lot of South:North movement of PhD students ie from S. Africa. S.America and SE Asia to Europe and the USA, but relatively little South:South movement, i.e. between the 3 developing regions. Mostly this is attributable to a perceived higher standard existing in Europe and the USA and the desire to collaborate, by sending students, to these areas, however it is clear that good doctoral training is present in all of the developing” regions and some institutions, such as USP, have high quality programmes and are already attracting inward migration of PhD scholars from all over the world.

With the booming economy of Brazil and the heavy investment in HE and Research the country is fast becoming a major contributor to quality research training and research output. A similar commitment to English language training has made them major players in the international arena for research excellence. The Latin Tiger” is definitely beginning to roar!