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29/07/2017 - 07:00hs

Federal university in Brazil accepting refugee students

Twelve seats will be available in Santo André and São Bernardo, near São Paulo, for refugees or asylum-seekers. Candidates will be required to take the Brazilian national exam.

Thiago Barbosa/UFABC

UFABC is making 12 seats available to refugees

São Paulo – Universidade Federal do ABC (UFABC), a federal university in the state of São Paulo, Brazil, is offering 12 seats in graduate courses to refugees and asylum-seekers effective next year. There will be eight seats in Science and Technology in the cities of Santo André and São Bernardo do Campo, in the Greater São Paulo area, and four seats in Sciences and Humanities in São Bernardo.

UFABC offers cross-disciplinary courses with a general curriculum for the first two years, after which students earn baccalaureate degrees and move on to specific fields such as Physics, Chemistry, Engineering, International Relations, Philosophy etc.

Half the seats will be earmarked for socioeconomically vulnerable refugees. Candidates must have per capita incomes lower than one and a half minimum wage. International Relations professor José Blanes Sala explains that if the seats are not taken by students matching this profile, they will be offered to other refugees.

Candidates can enter the courses via the National High School Exam (Enem) and the Unified Selection System (Sisu). In practical terms, they must take the Enem this year. Each federal university has their own set of rules for the Sisu-based selection process.

The candidates must also validate their high school diplomas in Brazil. Since this is an issue with refugees, Sala explains that the paperwork will be made as easy as possible, and that the National Committee for Refugees (Conare) can help.

Applicants need to provide proof of refugee status or of their asylum applications. Sala stresses that even those who only have proof that they applied for asylum can apply.

Considering what’s usually the case in Brazil, professor Sala believes most of the candidates will be African, from countries like Angola and Congo. “We do not rule out having many Latin Americans apply,” says Sala, who cites Colombians, Venezuelans and Cubans. He also expects Syrians to apply, what with the ongoing conflict in Syria.

Accepting refugees is a new step forward in UFABC’s actions in the field. Sala explains that in 2014, the university struck an agreement with the Brazilian arm of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) to create the Sérgio Vieira de Mello Chair, comprising workgroups in several universities tasked with encouraging debate and knowledge production on the subject.

The UFABC’s chair includes José Blanes Sala and three other professors. The group’s work led to refugees and asylum-seekers being discussed in graduate and postgraduate courses, and university extension courses were created. A meeting of the national association of federal higher education deans (Associação Nacional dos Dirigentes das Instituições Federais de Ensino Superior - Andifes) called upon different universities to address the subject of refugees, and this was also a factor when it came to the UFABC offering seats to foreigners.

Salas points out that having refugees at the university is a chance to embrace a different reality, and notes that refugees have a lot to offer regarding culture and professional skills. “These are people with high work capacity, because they want to get their lives straight fast,” he says. “It’s an enriching interaction for the university,” he asserts.

Quick facts

Seats for refugees and asylum-seekers in 2018
Courses: Science and Technology – Sciences and Humanities
Website: http://www.ufabc.edu.br/
Find out more: +55 11 4996 0001

*Translated by Gabriel Pomerancblum

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