Academic journal article Higher Learning Research Communications

Quality Assurance of Post-Graduate Education: The Case of CAPES, the Brazilian Agency for Support and Evaluation of Graduate Education

Academic journal article Higher Learning Research Communications

Quality Assurance of Post-Graduate Education: The Case of CAPES, the Brazilian Agency for Support and Evaluation of Graduate Education

Article excerpt


Brazil was discovered by Portuguese sailors who landed in Porto Seguro, Bahia in April, 1500. It was maintained as a colony of Portugal until 1822. For three centuries, natural resources such as Brazil wood, sugar cane, coffee, gold and precious stones, were freely exploited. The wealthy and opulent natural resources also attracted foreign invasions (France and Holland, for instance). The first cultural and scientific institution - The Botanic Garden, was founded in Rio de Janeiro in 1808, when the Portuguese Royal Family was established in Rio de Janeiro. D. Pedro II was Emperor from 1840 to 1889, when Brazil became a Republic. Although a few professional faculties were created at the end of the XIX century, the first research university (USP, the University of Säo Paulo) was only created in 1934.

The Brazilian Higher Education System

The Brazilian higher education system is entirely new. By the middle of last century, Brazil had only a few universities. The Federal University of Paraná (UFPr) was created in 1912. The University of Säo Paulo and University of Brazil, now Federal University of Rio de Janeiro (UFRJ), were formed in 1922 and 1934, respectively, including then-existing schools of medicine, engineering, law and others. In fact, the University of Säo Paulo (USP) was the first that included regularly the concept of research into the academic activities. Several other public universities were formed or created much later. The great majority of the post-graduate courses are within the public universities. Many, but not all of them, are recognized as having high educational standards in Brazil. Public universities are supported by either the federal or state governments, and hold most of the post-graduate courses: 80% and 90% of Masters and Ph.D. courses, respectively. Some exceptions among the private institutions do exist, especially within Catholic and other communitarian universities.

Today, this higher education system has grown to a quite multifaceted and uneven educational system, which generated actual challenges to Brazilian authorities in an attempt to better equilibrate the whole system. Thanks to poor regulatory procedures and through the belief that the market would take care of education quality, a deteriorating process for accreditation of new institutions progressed rapidly. On 2009, there were over 2,314 institutions, including both public and private ones, covering both universities and isolated faculties:

a) 245 public universities at the three government levels: 94 Federal; 84 State (Länder) and 67 County (Statt), and

b) 2,069 (89.4% of the total), including two types of private institutions: 1,779 profit oriented and 290 philanthropic.

The public system accounts for 11% of the higher education institutions, 37% of the teachers (ca 132,000) and about 27% out of 6.3 million students. Considering the ten largest universities in undergraduate and graduate students, only two public institutions (USP and UNESP) are included in both groups while none of the private ones is present in the second group (that of graduate studies). Furthermore, in the first group, the ten institutions account for 14% of the students while in the second group the ten universities enrolled 46% of the graduate students. This information allows some inference about the quality of the whole Brazilian higher education system.

The federal system has been facing several changes in the last years. The budget of the Ministry of Education (MEC) has increased three-fold since 2004 to US$ 41 billion in 2010; an expressive expansion that the federal university system is under way: from 43 institutions in 2002 it is now 59 universities, increasing from 43 to 230 campuses covering 187 more cities not attended by federal institutions before. A similar expansion of the Technical Educational Institutes covers the whole country today. Enrollments at both group of federal institutions increased consistently. …

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