Mendonça Filho, the Brazilian minister for education and culture, has issued a statement insisting that public universities in Brazil remain free and that “any information to the contrary is false”.
He made the statement in the light of ongoing congressional debate around a constitutional amendment bill that would give public universities the option of charging for extension courses and specialist programmes but would not affect undergraduate, master’s or doctorate degrees.
The bill was supported by Aloizio Mercadante, a former education minister, as a way of raising more funds for higher education. He is also keen to establish a fund enabling alumni to give money to the institutions where they studied.
A separate bill, now before the senate, envisages students who come from families with incomes more than 30 times the minimum wage paying fees equivalent to the average student’s maintenance costs for attending a public university.
The National Students’ Union and the National Association of Graduate Students are among those opposing the measure on the grounds that quality education at all levels should be available for free.