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Brazilian Government and University of Birmingham commit to intensify collaboration

The University of Birmingham’s strong history of engagement in Brazil was officially recognised by the highest honour of the Brazilian government.

Brazilian Ambassador, Fred Arruda, decorated Professor Robin Mason, Pro-Vice-Chancellor International, with the Order of Rio Branco (Officer Class) for championing academic co-operation between Brazil and the UK at an investiture ceremony at the Embassy of Brazil in London.

The accolade is a mark of Professor Mason’s individual contribution, and of the University of Birmingham’s long-standing commitment to engagement with Brazil. 

His Excellency Ambassador Arruda commented:

“I think we can all agree that the University of Birmingham is one of the main academic doorways to Brazil in the UK. In Birmingham, we have a teaching fellowship programme – our Leitorado; a Forum entirely dedicated to Brazil; an impressive body of joint research work in a variety of areas; a growing number of exchange students and scholars. As I had the privilege of witnessing first-hand when I visited the University back in 2019, what we do together is massive – and I must say our cooperation has grown even stronger since those pre-pandemic days.

“On the side of the University of Birmingham, Professor Mason stands out as the leader of a team of extraordinary people who have made the difference when it comes to enhancing the connections between Brazil and the University. He has wholeheartedly put his enthusiasm, competence and vision at the service of the Brazil-UK cooperation in research and education. Through his hard and consistent work, he has earned our respect and admiration. Hence the decision of the Council of the Order of Rio Branco to accept my recommendation and admit Professor Robin Mason as an Officer.”

The award of Rio Branco is the most important honour conferred by the Brazilian government. Instituted in 1963, it is named after the patron of Brazilian diplomacy, José Maria da Silva Paranhos Jύnior, Baron of Rio Branco, who played a major role in peacefully consolidating Brazil’s borders.

Professor Mason’s is one of only three awards conferred by the Brazilian government to a British foreign national in the UK during Ambassador Arruda’s five-year tenure in London. He joins the Prime Minister’s Trade Envoy to Brazil and the developer of the Astra Zeneca vaccine as distinguished holders of the medal.

Professor Mason and the University were also honoured by the presence of Brazil’s Minister of Education, Camilo Santana, and the President of CAPES, Professor Mercedes Bustamante, at the investiture ceremony. Minister Santana and Professor Mason signed a protocol of intent setting out their shared commitment to collaborate more closely through the establishment of a Brazil Institute at the University.

The University of Birmingham Brazil Institute will build on the work of the Birmingham Brazil Forum. It will host the University’s long-standing Birmingham Brazil Visiting Fellows scheme, through which nearly 100 Brazilian academics have come to the University; its joint funding programme with FAPESP, which is now open for applications; and it will work with key agencies like CAPES to support new opportunities to deepen collaboration.

Minister Santana commented:

“It is with great joy that today we celebrate a new agreement that will further strengthen educational cooperation relations between Brazil and the United Kingdom. The University of Birmingham, an institution of great renown and tradition, has been an important partner of Brazilian higher education institutions… and a true radiator of scientific and cultural knowledge about Brazil here in the United Kingdom. This partnership will be deepened with the creation of a Brazil Institute at the University of Birmingham. We are extremely pleased with this prospect, which will open new avenues for cooperation with Brazilian higher education institutions in an ever-increasing number of areas of study and research.”

Professor Mason commented:

“I am incredibly honoured and humbled to receive the Order of the Rio Branco (Officer Class) for my contribution to academic co-operation between Brazil and the United Kingdom. I would like to thank His Excellency Ambassador Fred Arruda and Minister Camilo Santana for honouring me in this way. This marks the long commitment that the University of Birmingham has had to engaging with Brazil. I was especially delighted to reiterate that commitment by announcing publicly the founding of the University of Birmingham Brazil Institute. The new Institute will serve as an excellent platform not just to deepen and widen the University’s engagement with Brazil, but more broadly to help to strengthen the partnership between our two countries.”

The investiture ceremony was attended by several academic and diplomatic colleagues, who have been integral to the University’s engagement in Brazil, but we are indebted to the many more colleagues across the University of Birmingham and their counterparts in Brazil, whose hard work and commitment to academic co-operation lie behind this award.

Read more about the University of Birmingham’s Brazil engagement here.

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