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…)