The statue of Christ the Redeemer, overlooking Rio.

University of Exeter partners with Brazil

The University of Exeter’s first official visit to Brazil took place at the end of July, with Vice-Chancellor Professor Sir Steve Smith leading a University delegation to the country to consolidate links with three leading research institutions: the University of São Paulo (USP), the Oswald Cruz Foundation (Fiocruz) and the National Institute of Space Research (INPE).

The University of São Paulo/University of Exeter Archaeology Research Symposium, held on 25 July, showcased two successful collaborations in the field of Archaeology.  Professor Jose Iriarte (University of Exeter) and Dr Rafael Corteletti (USP) presented on their research project into ‘Jê Landscapes of southern Brazil’, funded by FAPESP-AHRC, which investigates the changing human-environment relationships in SE Brazil during the last two millennia. Dr Astolfo Araujo (USP) and Professor Bruce Bradley (Exeter) discussed their project investigating when, and from where, people arrived in eastern South America at the end of the Pleistocene (specifically during and immediately after the Last Glacial Maximum, between 22,000-13,000 years ago).  

In Rio de Janeiro, the Vice-Chancellor visited Fiocruz where he met with President Paulo Gadelha and signed a Memorandum of Understanding, formalising plans for future collaborative work.  Fiocruz is the most prominent institution of science and technology in health in Latin America and Exeter’s links with the institute date back to the 1990s, with a British Council-funded project led by Professor Trevor Bailey.  Following a visit to Exeter by a team of Fiocruz researchers in April 2014, plans have been made to expand collaborative links with research groups from the University of Exeter Medical School, the College of Engineering, Mathematics and Physical Sciences and College of Life and Environmental Sciences.

Sir Steve also travelled to the city of São Jose dos Campos to visit INPE.  Links with INPE include a project led by Professor Jose Iriarte entitled ‘PAST: Pre-Columbian Amazon Scale Transformations, a comparative study of pre-Columbian land uses in four different regions of Amazonia’ by applying, for the first time, an innovative interdisciplinary approach that integrates archaeology, ethnohistory, archaeobotany, paleoecology, soil science, botany, landscape ecology and remote sensing.  Professor Trevor Bailey also has strong links with INPE, which ties into his work with Fiocruz, on Territory-based Health Surveillance Systems such as developing early warning systems for Dengue Fever.  

INPE is also a central partner in the PULSE project: Impacts of Climate Extremes on Ecosystem and Human Health in Brazil, which is led by Exeter’s Professor Peter Cox.  The signing of a Letter of Intent, by Sir Steve and Professor Leonel Perondi, Director of INPE, formalised the relationship between the two institutions.  Both parties have agreed to promote joint scientific research activities, faculty and student exchanges, jointly supervised postgraduate students and translation and dissemination of scholarly publications particularly within the field of Global Environment Change.

Sir Steve also joined 1,100 Vice-Chancellors and leaders of Higher Education institutes from 33 different countries at the 3rd Universia International Presidents Meeting sponsored by Santander Universities.  The University of Exeter’s relationship with Santander goes from strength to strength, with a new gift agreement worth £225,000 signed in June to continue philanthropic donations for the next three years.  To date, the University has received support and pledges of over £900,000 from Santander Universities to fund scholarships, travel grants and entrepreneurial activities.  Whilst at the conference, Sir Steve also took part in several meetings on behalf of the UK Higher Education International Unit, to foster greater educational collaboration between Brazil and the UK, including discussions with the British Council and the UK’s Deputy Head of Mission in Brazil.

Date: 5 August 2014