Special Report by iNEER Correspondent

14 May 2000, Rio de Janeiro

After a few month in Sao Paulo, Brazil as Dean of Planning and Development at the Universidade Sao Francisco, Luiz Scavarda has recently returned to PUC-Rio, the Pontifical Catholic University of Rio de Janeiro. Scavarda’s new role will be in planning and development, a senior position comparable to the that of Dean.

I am trying now to work on the necessary revival of the national program of engineering education reform," Scavarda recently explained. "The process of financing science and technology development is changing very fast in Brazil. The privatization process brought, as a "fringe benefit", the creation of regulatory agencies, for strategic areas like petroleum, telecommunication, water, electricity, etc. These agencies are co-responsible, together with the national agencies like CAPES, FINEP, CNPq and State Agencies in the re-investment of a percentage of the net gain in the industries to promote further economic growth. This means, in the steady state, a tripling of the recent level of funding for science technology development."

A member of the International Steering Committee of the International Conference on Engineering Education (ICEE), Scavarda was chair of ICEE-1998 held in Rio de Janeiro. He was one of the first individuals who proposed establishing the International Network for Engineering Education and Research (iNEER).

In Scavarda’s view, education and basic research are recognized as of fundamental importance to economic development in the "strategic" areas. "The challenge lies in showing a direct connection to the bottom lines."

A key participant in last year’s ICEE-1999 held in the Czech Republic, he reports that a positive consequence is coming out of that conference. He said: "Some European schools of engineering are starting a program of double graduation with a number of Brazilian universities, like PUC-Rio, University of Sao Paulo, University of Campinas and the Federal University of Ceara. A Brazilian student or an European student can get two diplomas by studying in his home university, and staying a couple of years in the second one.

According to Scavarda, one reason that the Europeans took the lead in these programs seems to be connected to the fact that most of the privatized Brazilian companies were bought with European money, and they need engineers with a real international perspective.

Scavarda concluded: "This all boils down to my perception that we could start to work together with North American universities in similar programs. The interaction of Brazilian Universities and American universities has been very strong, and the time is now ripe for us to do something truly meaningful together in engineering education."

He says he is planning to contact some of the universities in the U.S. to explore their interest in such joint degree programs.

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