Colleges and Universities

Brazil Table of Contents

The system of colleges and universities expanded rapidly in the 1970s and 1980s, reaching a total of 893 in 1993. Of these, ninety-nine were universities and 794 were isolated colleges or schools. Nearly all states have federal universities. The state universities are less widespread, while the few municipal universities or colleges are concentrated in large cities in the Southeast and South. The Southeast Region has nearly two-thirds of the country's colleges and universities. The number of undergraduate students admitted in Brazil in 1990 was 407,148, of which 14.1 percent were in federal universities, 10.9 percent in state universities, 5.9 percent in municipal universities, and 69.0 percent in private institutions. The total number of students enrolled was about 1.5 million, and the number of graduates was 230,000.

The best universities in Brazil generally include the University of São Paulo (Universidade de São Paulo--USP), the Campinas State University (Universidade Estadual de Campinas--Unicamp), the Federal University of Rio de Janeiro (Universidade Federal do Rio de Janeiro--UFRJ), the University of Brasília (Universidade de Brasília--UnB), and the Federal University of Minas Gerais (Universidade Federal de Minas Gerais--UFMG), all of which are public. The private Pontifical Catholic University of Rio de Janeiro (Pontifícia Universidade Católica do Rio de Janeiro--PUC-RJ) is also highly ranked. Public universities are free and do not charge tuition. Private colleges and universities, which charge tuition, grew very rapidly during the 1970s to meet the enormous demands of a growing middle class.

Because of the great demand for higher education and the limited resources, both public and private colleges (faculdades ) and universities in Brazil require an entrance examination (vestibular ). Passing these examinations often necessitates private college-preparatory courses, which only the upper and middle socioeconomic strata can afford. On completion of a full academic course of study, university students may obtain a bachelor's degree (bacharelado ) and may also study an additional year to receive a teaching degree (licenciatura ).

The choice of majors or specialties is not well-aligned with the job market. According to a 1993 IPEA study, two out of three students were in the social sciences or humanities, as opposed to scientific or technical fields. The study also concluded that four out of ten students dropped out before graduation and that those who graduated took an average of eight years to finish. Many of these had difficulty paying for tuition, or living expenses, and many who gave up before graduation realized that they were not being well prepared for the job market (see Research and Development, ch. 6).

Graduate study grew rapidly during the 1970s and 1980s. In 1991 Brazil had 973 master's programs in almost all areas, with 39,401 students, as well as 465 doctoral programs with 12,862 students. Because of this growth, along with budget constraints, the government restricted fellowships for university study abroad, which had made it possible for about 20,000 Brazilians to obtain their advanced degrees in the United States and Europe.

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Source: U.S. Library of Congress