BRASILIA, Brazil — Brazil will grant 100,000 scholarships for university students to study abroad as the rapidly developing nation tries to boost competitiveness and fill a growing shortage in the supply of top engineers and other key professionals, officials said Tuesday.
The scholarships are part of the government’s Science Without Frontiers program that focuses on students in science, health, mathematics, physics, engineering and technology, said Science and Technology Minister Aloizio Mercadante.
The government will finance 75,000 of the scholarships and the private sector will put up the funds for the remaining 25,000, he said.
“We will place our best students in the world’s best universities,” Mercadante said.
He said the aim of the program is to “correct a deficiency in the education of professionals in exact sciences.”
Mercadante said the number of liberal arts graduates increased 66 percent between 2001 and 2009, while the number of engineers grew just 1 percent during the same period.
Earlier this year, a study from Brazil’s Federal Council of Engineering, Architecture and Agronomy found that Brazil needs at least 20,000 more trained engineers, and that this number will continue to grow as the pace quickens for construction related to the 2014 World Cup, the 2016 Olympics and the long-term development of offshore oil reserves.
“In terms of innovation, Brazil lags far behind the position it occupies on the world economic scene,” Mercadante said.
He added that while Brazil is one of the world’s 10 largest economies, it ranks 47th in terms of innovation.
Mercadante pointed to South Korea, where he said one out of every four university graduates is an engineer, as a good example for Brazil, where just one out of every 50 graduates is an engineer.
The Associated Press writer Stan Lehman in Sao Paulo contributed to this report.