Only three years after the installation of the Portuguese Government in Rio de Janeiro in 1808, and the opening Brazil's ports to trade, did the first student from Brazil arrive at the University.

A high proportion of the early Brazilian-born students were the sons of merchants due to the importance of trade with this former mainstay of the Portuguese Empire. These merchants have been recognised as laying the foundations for the modern-day globalised economy. From the arrival of the first student in 1811 until 1965, of the 42 Brazilian-born students recorded at the University, eighteen of them were sons of merchants, later businessmen, and one the son of a sea captain. As was the trend, the majority of merchants’ sons came to the University to study short Arts courses before entering into business themselves.

Creating a globalised economy

The early Brazilian-born students were the sons of merchants, civil and naval engineers, who contributed to laying the foundations for the modern-day globalised economy.

By the middle of the nineteenth-century, Brazilian industrialisation dominated and was heavily reliant on European immigrant labour. This period saw students coming to the University to study Science, the majority of them sons of engineers, both civil engineers and shipbuilders, who were contributing to Brazil’s industrial development and often employed as short-term contractors in Brazil.

The University’s standing and reputation among Brazilian students would have been bolstered by such names as Sir William Thomson (Lord Kelvin), and his involvement in not only the successful installation of the first telegraph cable under the Atlantic Ocean in 1866, but in the laying of the Pará to Pernambuco section of the Brazilian coast cables in the summer of 1873 from Pará - Maranhão - Ceará – Pernambuco – Bahia - Rio de Janeiro. Kelvin was honoured with the Commander of the Imperial Order of the Rose in 1873, a Brazilian order of chivalry; instituted by Emperor Pedro I of Brazil on 17 October 1829.

Not only did Kelvin have an impact on Brazilian industrial development, but a variety of Glasgow-based engineering and textile companies forged successful commercial ties with Brazil. Scottish-born students of the University also began travelling to Brazil from the middle of the nineteenth-century, mainly serving the growing expatriate population in the ministry and medicine.

By the twentieth century, the University received the sons of fathers with more varied occupations as the Brazilian economy expanded, such as farmers, ministers, politicians, and businessmen and accountants. These students selected courses in both Science and Medicine taking advantage of engineering and medical innovations at the University, and latterly Social Science qualifications in Chartered Accountancy, Law and Economics.