Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Universities behind borders

Ronaldo Lemos has a written a thought-provoking article about the role of non-Brazilians in a Brazilian university. He interviews Volker Grassmuck, a German professor working at a Brazilian university, who feels that the result is intellectually insular:
People read the international literature in the fields I’m interested in in. But without having actual people to enter into a dialogue with this often remains a reproduction or at best an application of innovations to Brazil.

That is what I would expect. Academics want to work with other academics in the same specialty, and you aren't going to be able to build such units if you can only hire from the immediate locale. The people you really want will be elsewhere, and the people you get will spend their time trying to emulate them.

I feel that the U.S. is currently too strict on foreign workers for our own good, but we seem to be better off than in Brazil. In the U.S., once they finish groping you and finish making sure you aren't going to take a job in manual labor, you can do as you will. In Brazil, they make you redo your Ph.D. examinations, much like American states do with professional certifications such as dentistry and accounting.

It all seems very dirty to me. If you want a good intellectual atmosphere, you need to admit people from all over.

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