10 Quick Facts About Higher Education in Brazil

Brazilian flag

This Latin American giant is home to the world’s largest river, the world’s largest carnival and of course, the world’s best football players, but what do you know about higher education in Brazil?

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It may also be of interest to you, that our QS Latin American University Rankings for 2018 have been released! 

Featuring nearly 400 universities, we have highlighted the best universities in this region. Find out where Brazilian institutions rank in this list. 


Christ the Redeemer

  1. Compared to Europe and North America, higher education in Brazil began very late. It wasn’t until around 1808 that the King of Portugal established the first national institutions.
  1. The University of São Paulo, Brazil’s leading higher education institution, was founded in 1934. It is the highest ranked university in Latin America. Brazil also has five of the top 10 highest ranked universities in the Latin American region in 2015.
  1. Higher education in Brazil is split into three categories: universities, university centers and integrated faculties, and schools of higher education. Federal and state universities are free for students, but their reputation means it’s fiercely competitive to get a place.
  1. Students at Brazilian universities can choose from three types of courses:
  • Bachelor’s degrees, which qualify participants to become professionals such as lawyers or architects.
  • Licentiate degrees, which allow students to become teachers.
  • Technology degrees, which provide specialized knowledge in a professional field.
  1. Comparatively speaking, university graduates can expect a higher impact on their earnings in Brazil, compared to the impact of a degree in other countries. Graduate salaries are 2.5 times higher than those without degrees, and five times higher compared to those who did not finish secondary education.
  1. Brazil’s universities have the lowest percentage of foreign student enrolment of all OECD countries, with international students accounting for less than 0.5% of all university students.
  1. The government is trying to make education in Brazil a more attractive prospect for international students. It has created higher education cooperation links with other BRICS nations, to strengthen areas such as collaboration, training, and transferability of qualifications.
  1. Until recently, Brazilian university places have been reserved for the rich, with only 11% of the working-age population holding a degree. The current government is enacting legislation in an attempt to change this.
  1. In July 2014 Brazil’s president, Dilma Rousseff, announced the country’s new National Education Plan. The plan includes a goal to invest 10% of the GDP in education by 2024. However, the recent financial crash, which has led to the cutting of public spending, has cast this projection into doubt.
  1. The president recently signed a law instructing federal universities (the most competitive in the country) to award 50% of their places to students from state schools. Of that half, 50% must go to the very poor. Black, mixed-race or Amerindian students must be admitted in numbers reflective of the general population.

Interested in finding out more about higher education in Brazil? Read about the effects of the economic downturn here.

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