Higher Education in Brazil
Three different types of higher education institutions exist in Brazil: the universities, which conduct research and employ faculty that possess PhDs; university centers that offer a variety of courses but are not research-oriented; and integrated faculties that are smaller, higher education institutions needing approval from Brazil's Ministry of Education before offering new degrees, certifications and courses. While the majority of state and federally-operated universities do not charge tuition, smaller schools run by municipal governements may charge fees to attend their school.
Because Brazilian degrees do not follow the traditional educational degree hierarchy found in most other countries, students should take note that undergraduate degrees (associate's and bachelor's) are referred to as "graduate" (graduação) degrees in Brazil. Earning a bachelor's (bacharelado) degree takes between four to six years and allows the student to work as a doctor or lawyer in Brazil
A licentiate (licenciatura) degree takes about four years to complete and permits the degree holder to work in such professional jobs as secondary or elementary school instructors. Earning a technology degree takes the shortest amount of time--about two years-- and provides individuals with skills to work in highly specialized career fields, such as a tourist manager or agricultural business manager.
Postgraduate degrees called "Lato sensu" are also available that indicate a student has specialized in a particular academic subject. However, this degree will not allow a student to pursue a PhD. Instead, the student interested in a doctorate degree will need to earn a strictu sensu master's degree rather than a "Lato sensu". Masters of Business Administration degree programs in Brazil are considered to be lato sensu programs.
Brazil's Ministry of Education does not recognize the use of credits in its higher education system but relies on how many hours a student has accumulated during his or her academic career. For example, students earning between 850 and 1200 hours of university instruction in Brazil (one full-time year in a university) would have accumulated about 30 U.S. credits or 60 ECTS if they attended college in the United States or a European Union country.
The Vestibular is Brazil's university entrance exam that can only be taken once a year. Similar to the ACT or SAT exams given in the U.S., the Vestibular may take between one to five days to complete and tests students in their knowledge of math, literature, biology, physics, history and the Portuguese language. Because public university tuition in Brazil is free and open slots are limited, there is intense competition among students taking the Vestibular. Alternately, students attending a private university where tuition is required are not subjected to the competitiveness afforded to public universities and usually gain entrance with less than perfect Vestibular scores.
Requirements for Obtaining a Student Visa
Students wishing to attend a Brazilian university will need to take the Vestibular if they do not already possess scores from a similar entrance exam (such as the U.S. SAT or ACT) that may be used in place of Vestibular scores. A completed visa application form must then be submitted online to the Brazilian Consulate, along with a notarized copy of the student's driver's license or identification card. Two passport photos, a copy of the student's flight itinerary or airline tickets (proof of departure), a copy of the student's birth certificate, proof that the student has sufficient funds to pay for living expenses while studying in Brazil and a letter of invitation by the university the student is attending is also needed before Brazil's Ministry of Education will issue a student visa.
Why Study in Brazil?
Brazilian universities offer thousands of different degree programs ranging from fields like social justice and hydroengineering to biodiversity resource management and electrical engineering. Technological research is generously funded by government agencies that place great emphasis on aeronautics, agriculture and the utilization of renewable resources. Brazil's most highly regarded technology centers include the Oswaldo Cruz Institute, the Brazilian Agricultural Research Corporation and the Brazilian Space Agency, which boasts having the most advanced space and astronomy program among all other Latin countries.