August 16, 2012
Inside Higher Education: The World View, 8/15/2012
For the last several months, the Brazilian federal universities have been paralyzed by strikes, and, in an independent development, last week the Congress approved legislation requiring that 50% of the vacancies in these institutions should be destined to students coming from public schools, and distributed according to race.
There are 99 federal institutions in Brazil, enrolling about 940,000 students, and also 108 state institutions, enrolling 600,000 students. The private sector is much larger, with 2,100 institutions and 4.8 million students enrolled. Federal universities are fully subsidized by the national government, academics and administrative personnel are civil servants and their salaries follow a single scale for the whole country.
During the mandate of President Luis Ignacio Lula da Silva, as the country’s economy grew thanks to the expansion of international trade, the government increased the number of civil servants and provided them with regular salary increases above inflation, which also benefited the university employees. In 2012, however, the economic outlook has deteriorated; the public deficit is threatening to run out of control. The government refuses to continue to add benefits for the civil servants and is now facing strikes at universities and also from several other public agencies, including the federal police.
August 10, 2012
Each Friday, through the Brazil Portal feature “The Week in Review”, the Brazil Institute will highlight Brazil’s news topics in one concise summary.
Photo credit: Theseoduke
In the past decade, the world has had its eyes on Brazil as an emerging nation with an incredible ability to lift millions out of poverty; but while poverty eradication has promoted incredible benefits for society at large, the financial freedom of the emergent middle class has caused an influx of drugs into Brazil, thus indirectly causing Brazil’s security apparatus to become increasingly vulnerable. With these concerns in mind, Brazil launched a series of security maneuvers this week to maintain surveillance of criminal activities at Brazil’s international borders to uphold public health and safety. Likewise, the surveillance hopes to oversee illegal activities in Amazons such as illegal mining or logging and other threats from within Brazil.
These security maneuvers go hand in hand with preparation for the 2014 World Cup and the 2016 Olympics as Brazil hopes to increase surveillance of its notorious favelas to promote a better image for Brazil. In addition its contentious slum-cleaning initiatives in preparation of the games, Brazil is already spending billions on infrastructural developments to allow easy travel for the thousands of spectators coming to the games. However, there are doubts about Brazil’s ability to adapt their transit in time for the games: with only 22 months left to develop a fluid system of public transportation, there has yet to be a decision whether Cuiabá, a city hosting several of the World Cup games, will build a bus or rail system.
Brazil has even been expanding development past its national boundaries and has announced major investments in Africa. This week, Brazil announced with Nigeria its commitment to invest in roads, airports, and energy production amongst other areas of development. To address Angola’s famine, the Brazilian government is investing in food security initiatives and humanitarian relief projects. Brazil is also investing in Kenya to improve its urban transportation systems and in Mozambique to fund AIDS antiviral drug plants, thus signaling moments of enhanced Brazilian-African relations, and highlights Brazil’s African pride as a an extremely ethnic nation with a large population of people of African descent.
Acknowledgement of Brazil’s multiracial background has recently triggered Brazil to legislate an affirmative action bill for federal universities. The bill, which passed Brazil’s Senate August 7, reserves spots in federal universities to ensure multiracial representation in the student bodies. On August 6, Brazilian sociologist Simon Schwartzman commented on the proposed system of equal-pay for Brazilian professors at federal universities, and argued that failing to honor merit-based teaching would dissolve the integrity of federal universities. Nevertheless, Brazil’s university system seems to be preforming well, as Brazil’s University of Sao Paulo ranked at the top of the list for Latin American universities this year.