Brazil - Universities

Brazil now has a large and decentralized system of higher education. In total, the country has 2,364 higher education institutions, which offer 33,501 undergraduate courses in all regions.  The data are provided in the Census of Higher Education 2014 released by the Ministry of Education and the Anísio Teixeira National Institute of Educational Studies and Research (Inep) in October 2016.

According to this academic organization, the institutions are divided into universities, university centers, colleges and federal institutes. They can be private or public, linked to Federal, State or local governments.

The universities are characterized by the inseparability of the teaching activities, research and extension. The universities are multidisciplinary academic institutions, which produce institutionalized intellectual knowledge. To do so, they must follow certain requirements of the Ministry of Education (MEC), such as having, at least, one-third of the faculty working full time   and one-third   with Master’s degrees and Doctorates.

In turn, university centers cover one or more areas of knowledge, but the execution of institutionalized research is not mandatory in them. The faculties are institutions that offer higher education in only one area of knowledge and make up the universities, university centers or are independent institutions.

The Federal institutes are units that focus on technical training, with professional capacity building in various areas. They offer integrated high school to technical education, technical courses higher level, technology courses, teacher training courses and post-graduation courses.

With respect to private institutions, they may or may not be non-profit. Among those without this objective are the community ones, philanthropic or religious schools.

According to the survey of Inep, updated October 2016, there are 298 public institutions of higher education and 2,070 private institutions.

There are Federal and State universities in all 27 states. Remember that Brazil had no higher education institution until the beginning of the 19th century. After Brazil’s independence, the first higher education schools appeared, isolated without university status or professionalization orientation, especially in the areas of law, medicine, and engineering. The University of São Paulo, which is one of the country’s most important, was founded in 1934.

The QS World University Ranking by Subject, released on March 7, 2017, ranked the University of São Paulo (USP) among the best universities in the world in 41 of the 46 areas of concentration evaluated. USP was among the 50 best universities of the world in nine of these areas: Dentistry (18th place); Mineral and Mining Engineering (25th); Physical and Sport Education (31st); Architecture (35th); Agriculture and Forestry (35th); Veterinary Science (38th); Art & Design (42nd); Anthropology (42nd); and Law (50th). In 20 areas, USP was between the 51st and 100th positions; in nine areas, among the 150 best; and, in one area, among the 250 best.

In the QS World 2016 ranking, USP holds the 120th position among the best universities in the world, which is its best position since 2010, when the list began to be published in this format. In 2015, the university held the 143rd position. This improvement is the result of growth in the items "academic reputation" and "employer reputation". This year’s rise broke two consecutive years of downturn.

The 2016 ranking of the Times Higher Education (THE), with the best Latin American universities, highlights the Brazilian educational institutions. USP and the State University of Campinas (UNICAMP) are the best of the entire region, according to the publication. Brazil is the country with the most institutions represented in the ranking. Twenty-three Brazilian universities are among the 50 highest ranking Latin American schools listed by THE. Chile has 11, Mexico eight, and Colombia four. Venezuela shows up with two institutions on the list and Peru and Costa Rica come in with one each.

According to the Shanghai 2016 ranking, the best Ibero-American university is USP (with those that are listed among the 101 to 150 best in the world).

This ranking is based on six parameters that include, among others, the number of Nobel prizes, the number of top-level research works published, and the number of times that the researchers of each university are mentioned in works from their disciplines.

In the University Ranking of the Folha de S.Paulo (RUF) 2016, the Federal University of Rio de Janeiro (UFRJ) held first place, with 97.46 points, and USP came in second, with 97.03 points. The other eight institutions are: UNICAMP, UFMG, UFRGS, UNESP, UFPR, UFSC, UnB, and UFC.

This annual ranking by the Folha de S. Paulo newspaper, o ranking covers 195 Brazilian universities and takes into consideration the indicators of instruction, market, research, internationalization, and innovation. A RUF, in independent rankings, evaluates the 40 courses most sought after in Brazil, according to the Higher Education Census of 2014.

Numbers and Statistics

The number of university students increased significantly in Brazil after the creation of Prouni., that is a program of the federal government’s Ministry of Education, which grants scholarships to Brazilian students without a university degree. The scholarships may be full or partial ones of 50% in private institutions of higher education, in undergraduate courses and sequential courses of specific training.

After having recorded annual growth rates of up to 13% in the first half of the decade of 2000, the number of new matriculations in under-graduate courses fell in 2015. In 2014, 3.1 million entered universities, followed by 2.9 million in 2015 – for a drop of 6.1%. The most serious drop occurred in private universities, which had 6.9% fewer new students, in 2015, than in 2014. The drop occurred at the same time that the Federal government changed the rules and reduced the offering of new financing contracts for those who want to study in private schools, using the Student Finance Fund (FIES). Entities from the sector indicated that the situation, added to the economic crisis, is still reflected in the matriculations of 2017. The figures are from the Higher Education Census 2015, released on October 6, 2016, by the Anísio Teixeira National Institute of Educational Studies and Research (INEP).

The evolution of students entering public schools was constant since 2009, culminating with the increase, in 2013 and 2014, of 16% in terms of total new students. During that same period, Federal expense with FIES soared from R$7.5 billion to R$12.2 billion.

The number of new incoming students, according to the 2015 Census, dropped 6.13% when there were total registrations of 2,920,222 students. The drop was 2.55% in the public schools.

According to the Census, 8,033,574 students were matriculated in higher education programs in 2015. That number surpasses the statistics of 2014 by 2.5%. Thirty-three thousand under-graduate courses are offered in 2,364 institutions of higher education.

The Census points out that only 42.1% of the 6.1 new seats available in public and private institutions of higher education are filled and 13.5% of the remaining seats were filled. The Census also informs that the classroom courses suffered a drop of 6.6% in the number of new matriculations. However, distance learning lost 4.6% of its new students, compared to 2014.

More private schools

According to the Census, 87.5% of Brazil’s higher education system is made up of private institutions. As for the public institutions of higher education (IES), 40.7% are State, 36.3% are Federal, and 23% are Municipal. A majority of the universities are public (54.9%), while the private schools predominate in the university centers (94%) and the colleges (93%).

Brazil’s universities are equivalent to 8.2% of all institutions of higher education (IES). On the other hand, 53.2% of the matriculations in under-graduate courses are concentrated in the universities, where 94% of the courses are classroom oriented. A majority of the classroom under-graduate courses are located in the Southeast Region (45.1%).

The Federal system had the highest percentage of new seats filled (90.1%). If you consider the seats that were already empty from previous years, the Federal schools also showed the highest percentage of seats filled (27.4%).

The Census also showed that, in 2014 and 2015, the number of graduates from the public system dropped 0.8%, while the public system saw an increase of 15.9%. If you take into consideration only those who concluded the classroom undergraduate classes in all of the systems, there was an increase of 9.4% over 2014. The distance learning modality increased by 23.1% during the same period. A majority of the university professors have PhD’s (51.6%). The private system has the lowest percentage of PhD’s on its staffs. Currently, 20.8% of the professors of the private system have PhD’s, representing growth of 8.5 percentage points in 10 years. In the public system, where the majority have their PhD’s (57.9%), the growth in 10 years was by 17.8 percentage points.

Both the classroom modality and the distance learning system, women are in the majority. The most frequent age of matriculated students is 21 years in the classroom undergraduate courses and 33 years, in the distance learning courses. Pedagogy is the under-graduate course that has the most women matriculated. For men, law has the most students.

According to the Census, Brazil has 15,605 foreign higher education students, from 174 different nationalities, thus representing only 0.2% of all matriculations.