Higher education

Universities in Brazil

Higher education

As contradictory as it may sounds, Brazilian state universities are usually better than the private ones. It gets even more paradoxical when considering that the majority of students attending university went to private intermediary schools.

For decades the federal government concentrated its educational investments on tertiary education. While this was fatal to primary and secondary state education sector, state universities were and still are highly funded.

Entering Brazilian universities

All students who want to pursue higher education in Brazil have to pass an entrance exam (vestibular), irrespective of their nationality. The exams take place in December and January and require knowledge in Portuguese. Therefore, if you intend to apply at a Brazilian university you should acquire Portuguese language skills prior to your enrolment.

In private universities the vestibular is usually only a formality, whereas state universities use the test to select the best students from the usually too high number of applicants which is another reason for the higher value of state university degrees.

University structure

Higher education (Ensino Superior) in Brazil is divided into undergraduate and postgraduate studies. Each academic year is split up in two semesters. The first semester usually starts in March and goes until the beginning of July. The second semester starts in August and goes until the middle of December.

Depending on the field of studies 4-year courses lead to a Bachelor degree (bacharelado) and 5-year courses to professional diplomas. A professional degree in medicine requires 6 years of studies.

Both the bachelor and the professional diploma qualify the students for postgraduate studies (pós-graduãçao).

Note for foreign students in Brazil

Foreigners who intend to study in Brazil have to submit their foreign baccalaureate certificate at the Conselho Estadual de Educação, the educational institution located in each Brazilian state. This institution is responsible for the recognition of foreign education certificates. If the student applies for a postgraduate course, the foreign university certificate has to be acknowledged at the same institution.

For enrolment and acknowledgement of courses achieved at a foreign university, the student has to submit the following documents:

  • passport with an adequate visa
  • CV
  • list and approval of all courses visited and passed in the foreign country
  • baccalaureate or university certificate
  • certificate of proficiency in Portuguese

All Brazilian universities have an assessoria de relações internacionais who is responsible for foreign students and whom you can consult if you have any questions.

Further reading

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