Educational Systems in Brazil

History of Universities in Brazil

Much like the US, Brazil has a higher education system that consists of public and private-funded universities.

The current university system in Brazil greatly mirrors world standards. Additionally, some of Brazil’s universities are listed in the 500 best in the world.

The Escola Politécnica was created in Rio de Janeiro in 1792. After this, more institutions of higher education (yet not officially called “universities”) were established in Brazil.

These schools had a focus on civil and military engineering. An example of one of these schools was the Academia Real de Marinha (1808).

Two medical schools also began at this time. These schools were called the Academia Médico-Cirúrgica in Salvador and the Academia Médico-Cirúrgica in Rio de Janeiro.

Soon after gaining independence from Portugal, schools of law were established in Sao Paulo (1827) and Olinda (1827). A considerable amount of these schools developed into modern universities in Brazil.

Examples of schools that still remain are the Federal University of Bahia, the Federal University of Pernambuco, the Federal University of Rio de Janeiro and the University of So Paulo.

Vestibular (University entrance examination)

In order to enroll in a Brazilian university a student must take a public examination called “Vestibular.” This exam occurs annually and typically takes around 1-2 days to finish. In spite of this, there are a small number of universities that offer Vestibular twice a year.

It is common for private universities to give the test twice a year while public universities are known to offer Vestibular only once a year (in November, December, or January).

Universities usually have only a small number of places so only the most qualified applicants are accepted into each school. Vestibular’s questions involve many high school subjects.

Some of these subjects are:

  • Maths
  • Physics
  • Chemistry
  • Biology
  • History
  • Geography
  • Literature
  • Portuguese language, and
  • foreign language

Due to public universities in Brazil being free, there is usually steep competition to get in.

As of late, certain universities in Brazil have begun accepting students based off how they did on a new entrance examination. This test is called ENEM (Exame Nacional do Ensino Médio) and was designed by the Education Ministry.

Higher Education Degrees Offered in Brazil

Undergraduate degrees are called “graduate” degrees in Brazil. A Bachelors degree takes 4-6 years to complete. Graduate degrees are called “postgraduate” degrees in Brazil.

These take anywhere from 1 to 2 years to complete. These postgraduate degrees are not considered to be a gateway towards a doctoral degree.

If a student is wishing to pursue a PhD, a Masters degree should be taken prior. MBA programs in Brazil are called “Lato sensu” programs. A Masters degree takes 2 years to complete in Brazil while a PhD requires roughly 3-4 years to complete.

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