Latin America

Johanna Kivimäki

Johanna Kivimäki has served as a Senior Specialist of Higher Education and Science at the Finnish Consulate in São Paulo since November 2022, covering Brazil as well as the entire Latin American and Caribbean (LAC) region. Ms Kivimäki is responsible for increasing awareness of the LAC region's higher education, science and innovation policy and environment in Finland and to promote the visibility, attractiveness and strategic co-operation opportunities of Finnish higher education and research institutions in the region. 

From her previous work experience, Kivimäki is well acquainted with the needs and opportunities of Finnish higher education institutions related to partnerships and global responsibility in the Global South. Prior to her current position, Kivimäki served for ten years as director of the UniPID network of Finnish universities, promoting the global responsibility of higher education institutions and international sustainable development partnerships, as well as research-based development policy. Before this, she has also worked at the Finnish Embassy in Caracas as the co-ordinator of a development co-operation programme with local NGOs in Venezuela, Colombia and the Caribbean, living in Venezuela for four years. 

The objective of the role of the TFK Senior Specialist in São Paulo is to strengthen and diversify Finland's academic co-operation and attractiveness in the LAC region. The primary purpose of the role is to serve the co-operation and recruitment needs of Finnish higher education and research institutions and, if necessary, identify suitable partners and facilitate collaboration. The role involves, on the one hand, increasing awareness of opportunities for academic co-operation and student and researcher recruitment within the LAC region in Finland and, on the other hand, strengthening awareness and attractiveness of the Finnish higher education and research environment and institutions in the region.

To identify opportunities for strategic co-operation, it is essential to increase local knowledge and build networks with individuals and organisations in the region. Ms Kivimäki's duties focus on monitoring changes in the LAC region's higher education in addition to its science and innovation policy and operating environment, and reporting back on these to Finland. 

Brazil among the giants of higher education and science

Brazil's higher education market is the largest in Latin America and the fifth largest in the world. With a population of more than 215 million, Brazil is the seventh largest country in the world. A total of 20% of Brazilians hold a bachelor's degree with less than 1% a master's degree. Today, Brazil has a total of 2,608 higher education institutions, 302 of which are public and the rest private. In total, the country’s universities have more than 8.9 million students, 75% in private higher education institutions and the majority (97%) at a bachelor's level. 

In terms of contribution to science and innovation on the global scale, Brazil is among the world’s top ten net investors, generating 3.2% of all scientific results internationally and ranking as the 13th most productive country in the world. Brazil’s investments in science, technology and investment (STI) account for about 1.2% of the country’s GDP, of which about half is public funding and the other half from the private sector. In international comparisons, several public universities in Brazil are ranked on a par with Finnish universities. Brazil is on the list of global leaders, particularly in the fields of engineering, chemistry and agricultural sciences. Notable fields in Brazil's contribution to global scientific production also include parasitology, tropical medicine, odontology, agricultural science and forestry. In terms of national research volume, educational and educational sciences are also among the leading fields. 

Based on the amount of co-operation, Brazil is Finland's most important partner in higher education and research in Latin America. Finnish higher education institutions have about fifty co-operation agreements with Brazilian higher education institutions, comprising mobility, research and educational co-operation and education exports. Measured by the number of joint publications, Finland has the most research collaboration with Brazil in the fields of natural sciences, medicine and health, as well as in the biological and environmental sciences and technology, and co-operation has increased in recent years, particularly in the agricultural and forestry sciences. 

In 2022, Brazil was chosen as a Talent Boost target country, as part of which more efforts in student recruitment are planned. Brazil already ranks highly as a source of immigrants with regard to specialists and researchers, but the number of students is still comparatively small. Nevertheless, in the light of statistics, Brazilian applicants are of high quality and students admitted are quite committed to their place of study. Finland is widely recognised in Brazil for its high-quality basic education, but Finnish higher education, including its quality and dual-nature system, is clearly less well known. On the other hand, Brazil's potential in terms of co-operation is also not yet very well known in Finland. Now is a good time to get to know each other better!