One in three Brazilian universities ‘does not meet legal standards’

Analysis of government data suggests dozens of institutions do not meet requirements for staff contracts or provide postgraduate training

October 4, 2018
Sao Paulo, Brazil
Source: Getty

One in three universities in Brazil does not meet the legal requirements to be considered a university, analysis published by the newspaper Folha de São Paulo suggests.

According to Brazilian law, both public and privately funded institutions must offer not only academic programmes, but access to further studies and opportunities for scientific research in order to be considered of university standard.

To make these two conditions possible, the 1996 Education Guidelines Act states that strong graduate programmes and a full-time faculty body are essential. Therefore, a least a third of faculty members must be hired on a full-time basis.

A further amendment to the legislation states that at least two doctoral degrees and four master’s degrees must be available at an institution to qualify for the title of “university”.

Analysis of data from the country’s 2016 Higher Education Census, alongside data from Capes – Brazil’s federal agency for higher education and research funding – suggests at least 68 out of 196 universities (34.7 per cent) do not meet at least one of these requirements, however.

The findings, shared by Folha de São Paulo, show that 29 universities have less than a third of their professors on full-time contracts. A total of 53 do not have a system in place for postgraduates.

The findings highlighted a number of instances in which reputable institutions were not able to host doctoral programmes on their own, or ran programmes in partnership with other campuses.

Commenting on the findings, Elizabeth Balbachevsky, an associate professor at the University of São Paulo’s political sciences department, said that the requirement for universities to have at least a third of teachers working full-time was a reflection of society’s view of what a good public university is.

“Some big universities hire professors [on a temporary basis], and they do not fail to be good,” she said, citing the University of Buenos Aires as an example.

The findings come as Brazil faces its worst economic recession on record. Sector leaders have warned of a crisis in higher education funding, with skilled workers fleeing the country and research facilities forced to close as a result.

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