My new story on the internationalisation of Brazil’s universities went online at the Chronicle of Higher Education web site earlier this week. The Chronicle has a pay wall but the start of the piece can be seen here.

The story is about how Brazil’s universities are seeking to end decades of insularity by hiring more foreign students and teachers, as well as send more of their own students abroad on exchange programs.

All Brazil’s main universities – and I spoke to the rectors or vice rectors of the three biggest public universities in São Paulo, as well as the director of international affairs at the Federal University of Rio de Janeiro – are signing deals with foreign partners.

And all of them have set ambitious targets to double or triple the number of foreigners at their universities over the next few years.

It’s all part of a more general trend of Brazil opening up and becoming more engaged with the world.

Recognising that, diplomat Carlos Henrique Cardim told me: “When you have more professors and students from overseas it helps foment debate. It opens up issues. There’s no doubt that the presence of international students and academics in Brazil will help us better understand the larger international issues that are going on in the world. You understand more about Bolivia or Iran speaking with Bolivians and Iranians than you do reading books about them.”

Bringing in foreigners is a tough task, and not just because few top professors or young students speak Portuguese. Security, reams of red tape, and a lack of housing are just some of the major obstacles it needs to dismantle if more foreign students and teachers are to come south of the equator.

There is much work to be done. But the will is there. And where there’s a will, there’s a way