There are approximately 2448 higher education institutions (HEIs) in Brazil. These are a mix of both public and private higher education institutions which encompass institutes, universities, professional and training schools. Federal public and private HEIs both offer free education, whereas municipal institutions may charge tuition. In terms of private HEIs, these may be divided into community, denominational or not-for-profit. Community HEIs are geared towards local purposes such as offering courses which will create jobs that will later benefit the communities’ specific needs. Denominational HEIs are tied to religious organizations. Moreover, HEIs in Brazil welcome international students, as approximately 36% of students in public federal institutions in Brazil are international students. For more information, please refer to the official government website: http://www.brazil.gov.br/government/ministers/education.
The educational structure in Brazil follows the traditional path of a Bachelor (Bacharelado), followed by a Masters (Mestrado), and a Doctorate (Doutorado). Bachelor degrees usually take four years to complete. However, the path differs for students who are enrolled in architecture, medicine, law or engineering courses as these are usually completed within six years as they include time for specialization. Students in Brazil may also choose to complete a licenciatura (licentiate degree) if they are aspiring teachers which takes three years to complete, or a technology degree which takes two to three years to complete. Masters degrees generally take two years to complete and doctoral degrees last three to four years.
For both local and international students, the process of application is the same. In order to be accepted to Brazilian HEIs, students must take an entrance exam which is known as the Vestibular. Each university determines and proposes a different kind of Vestibular depending on the course applied for. In general, some private universities do not abide by this system, and therefore diplomas from private universities are regarded less highly than diplomas from public universities. Some universities may choose to offer another form of exam which substitutes the first part of the Vestibular which is known as the Exame Nacional do Ensino Médio (ENEM). The results from this exam may be used as a part of the final grade of the Vestibular. For students who have completed the ENEM, they must register through the SISU (Sistema de Seleção Unificada) which offers university vacancies for students who have taken this test. However, some universities are not registered with the system, and students must apply directly to the HEI and pass their specific entrance exam. In most cases, this means that foreign certifications are not accepted when applying. Moreover, all students must be able to prove their Portuguese proficiency through tests such as the CELPE-Bras as the language of instruction is Portuguese.
Tuition for international students and local students are both free for all public universities, however a few private HEIs require tuition to be paid.
Information for International Students
International students must apply for a student visa via their local embassy and have a formal letter from their university as proof. Moreover, most universities do not offer accommodation or have a campus, however there are many opportunities for homestays for international students available.