As the world’s attention focused on Rio de Janeiro during the 2016 Olympics, it became clear that Brazil’s dazzling success in staging global sporting events has parallels in the academic world. The Universidade Federal de Lavras (UFLA) in the southern state of Minas Gerais is a striking example. With roots as an agricultural college, UFLA’s rise has been meteoric. The latest rankings from the Brazilian government’s own Índice Geral de Cursos (IGC) place UFLA second among Brazil’s 226 universities.

“Diversification has been key to our success and continues to be a driving force,” says Dr José Roberto Scolforo, Rector of the university. “And we have been expanding our range of courses. At the end of 2014 we introduced degrees in civil engineering, chemical engineering, materials engineering and mechanical engineering. In 2015 we added a new programme in medicine.” The medical course is the first stage in a major development programme that will encompass the building of a new teaching hospital to serve the people of Lavras, as well as being a component of the university.


Sustainable education

“Another achievement that we are immensely proud of is having been named by the Green Matrix organisation as the top university in Latin America for environmental sustainability,” says Dr Scolforo. As part of its ecological initiatives, UFLA has built an on-campus water treatment plant that recycles more than a million litres per day. In addition to this, the university is currently proposing a 3.1 megawatt photovoltaic solar generation system. Beyond meeting the energy needs of the entire UFLA campus, the system could also supplement the Minas Gerais grid.

UFLA has more than 13,000 students – around 20 per cent of them postgraduates – and is becoming increasingly international. With highly qualified academic staff from the US and Canada, as well as elsewhere in Latin America, some subjects are now taught in English.

Additionally, courses in “Portuguese for foreigners” are offered for academics and students from abroad. UFLA has established partnership programmes with universities in North America, Europe, Asia and Africa. Students from around the world add a cosmopolitan flavour to the UFLA campus and to the city of Lavras in general. “With the eyes of the world trained on South America’s largest and most populous country,” says Dr Scolforo, “UFLA is proud to stand out as a major Brazilian success story and a force for good.”