Finnish-Brazilian higher education and research collaboration strenghtened at FAUBAI 2018 conference

Based on the positive experiences gained at FAUBAI 2016, FinCEAL Plus LAC again organized and supported a Finnish delegation to attend FAUBAI 2018. FAUBAI is a yearly conference organized by the Brazilian Association for International Education, and it is considered to be the most important event on internationalization of higher education in South America. The 30th Annual Conference FAUBAI 2018 was held in Rio de Janeiro from April 14 to 18, and brought together nearly 800 representatives from 29 different countries involved in the internationalization of higher education. The general theme this year was "Internationalization and Research: Challenges and Strategies” and discussions focused on issues related to the implementation of comprehensive internationalization policies, the attractiveness of Brazilian research and Brazil as a destination for international students and researchers, among other topics.

Finland had a stronger presence at the event than ever before. The delegation supported by FinCEAL Plus consisted of representatives of Aalto University, Häme University of Applied Sciences, University of Tampere, University of Turku and Åbo Akademi. Jarkko Wickström, Coordinator for Education and Science Cooperation at the Finnish Embassy in Brazil provided on-site support for the Finnish group. Besides a joint info table that attracted Brazilian participants to discuss cooperation matters, several Finnish HEI’s also held presentations in the various sessions organized during the conference, which provided more visibility for the Finnish institutions present. Having a joint delegation and a shared table proved to be a recommendable approach this time as well. This years' delegates recommend Finnish HEI's to actively propose presentations for the conference program also in the coming years.


Finnish delegates enjoying the Gala Dinner

As the main benefits of attending FAUBAI, Finnish delegates mentioned excellent networking opportunities, strengthening already-existing partnerships with Brazilian HEI’s as well as finding new partners. Several participants also commented on the importance of the new contacts that were created within the Finnish delegation. Although the main focus is obviously in Brazil, FAUBAI provides a useful opportunity to meet professionals from neighboring South American countries and from elsewhere around the globe. Planning Officer Niina Huovinen from Aalto University comments: ”FAUBAI is not the EAIE or NAFSA of Latin America, you shouldn’t expect to meet all your Latin American partner institutions at once at FAUBAI. Nevertheless, it is an excellent place to meet especially the Brazilian partners.”

Many delegates visited their partner universities in Rio, or had one-on-one meetings with them during the conference. For future reference, participants recommend contacting key people and agreeing on meetings in advance. Finding the right individuals in the crowd is difficult, as there is no big exhibition area where different institutions would be easily identifiable. Also several new agreements between Finnish and Brazilian HEI’s were planned, which will hopefully soon lead to new student exchanges, for example. Carrying out the necessary "homework” and follow-up after the event is clearly a must for operationalizing the new partnerships that were established.


Svetlana Pasti with Brazilian colleagues Nadia and Raquel

FAUBAI serves as a source of information on the strategies and challenges of the internationalization of institutions of higher education in Latin America and globally. The quality and usefulness of the different sessions was mostly good, although with some obvious variations. Effectively benchmarking and adapting the best internationalization experiences from other countries is something Finnish institutions could focus even more on, suggests University Researcher Svetlana Pasti from the University of Tampere.One interesting example presented at FAUBAI was that of CALDO, a network of the 15 best universities in Canada. Pasti summarizes: "Finland has a reputation for quality education and such an international platform as FAUBAI should be used more actively in promoting its best practices and popularization of the country itself for study. That is, the task for the next delegation would be how to make Finland's participation more visible and competing with the traditional leaders of the internationalization of higher education, such as the USA, Australia and Canada. At the next conference, someone from the Finnish delegation could speak on innovative forms and possibly the specifics of the internationalization of higher education in Finland.”

When it comes to internationalization in Brazil, a lot is happening. According to Jarkko Wickström, the next five years will determine the direction of the internationalization of higher education in the country. The contact networks formed now are of critical importance for forming lasting partnerships with the best local institutions. Finnish HEI’s need to invest in the creation and maintenance of these networks and partnerships, and active FAUBAI attendance is one key action in strengthening Finnish visibility and awareness of Finnish expertise in Brazil.

The next FAUBAI Conference will be held in Belém, the capital of the state of Pará from April 13 to 17, 2019. More information will be published later on the FAUBAI website.

Text: Kajsa Ekroos, FinCEAL Plus LAC, with special thanks to Taina Honkavuori, Cataldo de Blasio, Kirsi Korpela, Niina Huovinen, Salla Atkins, Svetlana Pasti and Jarkko Wickström for their input for the article. Picture credits: Taina Honkavuori, HAMK (first two pictures) and Svetlana Pasti, University of Tampere (last picture).