COLLEGES are launching a major new drive to attract fee-paying Brazilian students to Ireland.
About 1,200 are taking up places in Irish institutes of technology and universities this year in a deal worth €25m to colleges and the economy.
To strengthen ties further, Education Minister Ruairi Quinn is leaving for Brazil today on a major education and technology mission.
He is accompanied by representatives of 30 companies and education institutions on the mission, organised by Enterprise Ireland.
During his week-long trip, Mr Quinn will have a series of meetings with the Brazilian minister for education, Aloizio Mercadante, and Irish companies and their Brazilian partners.
He will also attend a range of events to promote Irish education and business.
Irish colleges hope to attract a further group of 2,000 from next September, as part of an ongoing Brazilian government-funded initiative that the Irish Government hopes will be worth €100m to the economy over four years.
The influx arises from Ireland's participation in Brazil's Science Without Borders initiative, aimed at sending over 100,000 Brazilian undergraduates abroad to study, and which is similar to the Erasmus scheme in Europe.
Most of this year's group are already settling into institutions such as IT Sligo and University College Cork on courses in science, technology, engineering, mathematics and creative industries.
Institutes of Technology Ireland CEO Gerry Murray said the students were already making a positive impact on campus life.
He said the institutes were determined to ensure that the students' time in Ireland would be marked by high-quality education and an enriching cultural experience.