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Brazilian “Science Without Borders” Students Choose U.S. Over U.K. After Language Test Failures

When Brazil launched its federally funded Science Without Borders program last year, its goal was to send 100,000 Brazilian undergraduates, graduate students, and postdocs, mostly from STEM fields, to study in international host countries for up to a year. The agreement with the host countries called on Brazilian students to satisfy all the normal requirements for earning a student visa, including any tests for language proficiency. For at least some of the chosen students, that’s proving harder than initially planned. The following was reported in Times Higher Education.

The Times reports that over the Science
Without Borders program’s 4-year duration, the United Kingdom hoped some
10,000 students would study at U.K. universities; that’s the same
number American universities anticipated. So far, though, the United Kingdom is falling short of both the
United States and Canada in attracting these Brazilian students; the U.S. and Canada have accepted 2000 and 1000 Brazilian students, each, respectively, while
the United Kingdom has accepted just 580.

In order to obtain a student visa from the U.K., hopefuls must score at least a 5.5 (on a 9.0 scale) on all four sections of the International English Language Testing System. According to the article, hundreds of students applying for U.K. student visas have failed to meet that standard, and rather than waiting to retake the test–thereby delaying their studies–130 of them chose to study instead in the United States, which doesn’t require English proficiency for its student visas.

According to the article, some members of the U.K. Embassy disagree with U.K. Border Agency’s tough stance on language requirements for student visas and have proposed a number of workaround solutions, although none are described.
It’s true, as the article says, that the U.S. student visa has no explicit language requirements, but it does require applicants to provide documentation showing that they have met university requirements–and most U.S. universities have English proficiency standards. Furthermore, most of these standards meet or exceed the standard required for a U.K. student visa.

So unless those Brazilian Science Without Borders students who failed to meet the U.K. visa requirements have made special arrangements, they’re not likely to be admitted to very many of America’s top universities.