Former Brazilian government minister and senior diplomat Professor Celso Lafer has received an honorary doctorate from the University of Birmingham, UK. Professor Lafer has been named Doctor of the University (DUniv) in the University’s historic Great Hall, in the presence of hundreds of graduands and their families.

Since 2007, Professor Celso Lafer has been President of FAPESP, the São Paulo Research Foundation, an independent public foundation with the mission to foster research and the scientific and technological development of the State of São Paulo, Brazil. This is achieved through the support of research projects carried out in higher education and research institutions across all fields of knowledge. During this period, Professor Lafer led a process of internationalization of FAPESP that has resulted so far in 91 partnerships with universities, research councils and companies from 19 countries.

Under Professor Lafer’s presidency, FAPESP has established a jointly funded pump-priming research scheme worth £480,000 with the University of Birmingham and the University of Nottingham, to support research collaboration with Brazil. The first round of funding was announced in 2011 with a second round launched in October 2013 by Professor Lafer and Professor Sir David Eastwood, Vice-Chancellor of the University of Birmingham, at a joint policy forum in São Paulo. This innovative scheme is one of the cornerstones of the University of Birmingham’s successful engagement with Brazil and contributed to the institution receiving the Outstanding International Strategy Award in the 2014 Times Higher Education Leadership and Management Awards (THELMAs).


Professor Lafer is also Emeritus Professor of the Institute of International Relations at the University of São Paulo (USP), Brazil. From 1971 until his retirement in 2011, he was Professor of International Law and Legal Philosophy at USP’s Law School. Other positions he has held include the Brazilian Minister of Foreign Relations (a position he held twice), the Brazilian Minister of Development, Industry and Trade and the Ambassador to the Permanent Representative of Brazil at the World Trade Organisation (WTO).

Professor Lafer has published 30 books in Portuguese on issues such as Law, Philosophy, International Relations, Economy – particularly on human rights – as well as the Brazil’s position as an emerging world power and global trade. In 2002 he received the highest award for science and technology in Brazil, the National Order of Scientific Merit.

On receiving his honorary degree from the University of Birmingham on Monday 15 July, Professor Celso Lafer said:

“An honoris causa doctorate is a recognition that warms the heart of a university professor. Recognition is a gift and in this case it is one that is particularly important for me because it comes from a university that I admire as a model of higher education, open to all fields of knowledge and located at the forefront of research in the world.”

Professor Lafer also offered this advice to the Birmingham graduands as they look to their future:

“The inherent restlessness of research; the spur of doubt; the disposition for dialogue; a critical mind set; a temperate judgment and the sense of complexity of things are guidelines for the role of the intellectual. They were formulated by the late Norberto Bobbio, the outstanding Italian thinker of the second half of the 20th century and have been the parameters of my academic pursuits.”

Professor Lafer’s acceptance of his honorary degree coincided with a visit to the University by His Excellency Roberto Jaguaribe, Ambassador of Brazil to the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland. As well as an extensive tour of the facilities at Birmingham, both men attended a poster exhibition showcasing the University’s research with Brazilian partners and met academics involved. They were also introduced to current Ciência sem Fronteiras (Science without Borders) scholars studying at the University of Birmingham.