Tag: Brazil

Guest blogger: Economic growth and higher education policies in Brazil – a link?

Simon Schwartzman

Simon Schwartzman - senior researcher at the Instituto de Estudos do Trabalho e Sociedade in Rio de Janeiro.

In this guest entry, Simon Schwartzman examines the link between economic growth and higher education expansion. He argues that this links exists, but not in the expected direction; economic growth is the cause, not the product of the expansion of higher education and research. However, this situation may be changing now, with the growing demand for qualified manpower and research capabilities by the knowledge economy.

This post was originally published as at International Higher Education (issue 67), but is being reposted with permission from the author. 

Brazil is one of the new “emerging economies.” It is flexing its muscles to become a leading international player, and thus, it needs good university institutions capable to produce the scientists and engineers needed to keep the momentum. Therefore, clear policies are required, to improve the standards of universities and the quality of higher education institutions, based on a clear identification of priorities. However, contrary to the assumptions and expectations of external observers, Brazil does not have such a strategy.

Brazil experienced cycles of rapid economic growth in the 1930s, after World War II, in the 1970s, and again after 2002. Each of these cycles can be explained by favorable external conditions—the revenues created by the agricultural and mining sectors, the influx of international investments, and the use of such resources to finance a growing public sector, the steady transfer of the population from the countryside to the urban centers, and generating a growing internal consumption market. These developments were also preceded by internal reorganizations of the economy, controlling inflation and increasing the governments’ ability to raise taxes, as it happened in the late 1960s and more recently in the 1990s. In none of these cycles is a causal link found between investments in education, science, and technology and economic growth. (more…)

Guest blogger: Brazilian Higher Education System: the right to develop research

This post is written by Daniel Guerrini who is a PhD candidate in the Graduation program in Sociology at  Universidade Federal do Rio Grande do Sul (UFRGS) in Brazil. Currently, he is a visiting researcher at University of Tampere in Finland having received a CAPES Scholarship. His PhD project is focused on the issue of institutional autonomy in Brazil, with using Finland as a contrasting case. In this post he sheds light on the Brazilian higher education system that appears to maintain a rigid and persistent institutional hierarchy in terms of autonomy.

In 2009 Brazil had more than 5 million students enrolled in its higher education system (HES). The majority of these students were enrolled in the private sector, corresponding to 74% of the total.  But there is a big and clear cut inside the system that divides higher education institutions (HEI’s) between those that develop research activities and those that don’t. The ones that develop research have specific funding mechanisms, controlled by academic councils, in addition to enjoying high levels of academic and institutional autonomy.

Taking into account this division, private institutions which develop research activities are responsible for only 29,8% of national enrollments (INEP, 2010), thus being less representative, in the competition between the most prestigious HEI’s. But all HEI’s are subjected to the same Federal law of education (nº 9394, of 1996) and a Presidential Decree (nº 5.773, of 2006). By analyzing them, we can have an overview of how this division in the system operates to better understand some internal particularities of the Brazilian HES. (more…)