Study in Brazil

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If you're looking to study in Brazil you'll be spoilt for choice when it comes to postgraduate courses as the country is home to thousands of higher education institutions

If you're thinking of taking your postgraduate studies abroad to Brazil, you're guaranteed to have a colourful experience. Famed for its carnivals and wildly diverse culture, the country also has a number of universities in the QS World University Rankings 2014/15.

According to the rankings the Universidade de São Paulo (USP) is the top university in Brazil, while the Universidade Estadual de Campinas (UNICAMP) claims second place and the Universidade Federal do Rio de Janeiro is ranked third.

Masters degrees

In Brazil there are three types of degree:

  • Bachelors (Bacharelado);
  • Masters (Mestrado);
  • Doctoral/PhD (Doutorado).

These three stages loosely correspond to the three cycles of the Bologna Process - the European system of higher education, although Brazil has no formal agreement with the European Union.

Additionally, Licenciatura degrees are similar to a Bachelors but are intended for students who wish to become school teachers.

A Masters in the country takes two years to complete and is the first stage of postgraduate study. Courses usually comprise both taught and research elements, resulting in the writing of a dissertation.

Graduate programmes are continuously evaluated by the Brazilian Federal Agency for Support and Evaluation of Graduate Education (CAPES), in order to maintain standards and make improvements where necessary.

Brazilian universities

There are over 2,000 higher education institutions in Brazil where universities are divided up into the following categories:

  • federal government managed universities;
  • state government managed universities;
  • municipal government managed universities;
  • private universities.

It is generally acknowledged that public universities provide the best quality education in the country and therefore competition for places is fierce.

In order to be accepted into Brazilian universities applicants must first pass an entry exam called a vestibular. Exams usually take place once a year, although some universities may provide exams on a more regular basis.

The Brazilian academic calendar usually begins in February.

To find more comprehensive information about the institutions in the country, and the postgraduate courses on offer, visit the CRUB: Conselho de retoires das universidades Brasileiras - Brazilian Universities.

Course fees

Federal and state owned institutions are known as universities and don't charge tuition fees for undergraduate or postgraduate courses. In this instance the only fee international students will have to pay is a registration fee once you have been accepted onto a course.

Municipal universities tend to be smaller institutions and can sometimes charge tuition fees. Private higher education institutions are primarily university centres or integrated faculties and will always charge tuition.

The cost of study at private universities will vary greatly depending on the institution and the course, so check with each university individually before applying.

Funding to study in Brazil

International students are eligible for all the educational loans available to Brazilian students, including accommodation, books, meals and transport.

That said it will be easier to secure funding with a home-based organisation while you are still in the UK, so if you require financial support arrange it before you leave.

If you are planning to study in Brazil for just one term, you may be entitled to financial support from your university. Discuss funding options at your university's finance office before committing to the trip.

It may also be worth searching for scholarships and bursaries through the Brazilian embassy or consulate in your home country.

How to apply

You can apply for postgraduate degree programmes through individual university websites, although most of them are written in Portuguese.

To study in Brazil you will need to show that all of your UK qualifications have been obtained from an accredited higher education institution.

When applying for postgraduate study you will need to prove you have a licentiatura degree (or an international equivalent to a Bachelors degree) as well as providing additional evidence such as:

  • an application form;
  • official copies of qualifications;
  • references;
  • a research proposal;
  • a letter of recommendation from your tutor or a professor;
  • ID photos.

These requirements will vary depending on the field of study and the university to which you are applying.

Language requirements

University courses and examinations are usually delivered in Portuguese, the language of the country, so in order to be admitted onto many courses you must be able to prove that you are proficient in the language.

You can demonstrate this knowledge by providing a CELPE-Bras certificate, the only Portuguese proficiency test recognised in Brazil. For more information see the Embassy of Brazil in London - Certificate of Proficiency in Portuguese (CELPE - Bras).

A handful of universities are starting to offer international programmes taught in English, however a basic understanding of Portuguese would still be required.

Student visas

If you wish to study in Brazil you must apply for a student visa through the Consulate General of Brazil in your home country. Visas are issued for one year but can be renewed.

You can fill out the application form online but to fulfil the requirements you will need to send a completed and signed copy to your Brazilian Consulate, along with the following documents:

  • passport with at least six months validity;
  • copy of your birth certificate;
  • two printed and signed visa application forms;
  • two passport sized photographs;
  • copy of your letter of acceptance from a Brazilian institution;
  • proof of sufficient funds for the duration of your stay;
  • conviction history for the last three months;
  • medical certificate.

Once you arrive in Brazil you must register with your local branch of the Federal Police within 30 days, this is needed to formalise your stay and for you to acquire a foreigners ID card.

Brazilian exchanges and placements

There are a number of exchanges and placements on offer which enable students to study at Brazilian universities, these include:

  • Study in Brazil - a programme which aims to promote education in Brazil to foreign students and foreign exchange organisations.
  • Universidade Federal do Rio de Janeiro (UFRJ) International Mobility Exchange Programme - student exchange programme which aids students wishing to study in Brazil. UK institutions with an agreement with the UFRJ include Durham University, Kings College London, University of Nottingham, Queen's University of Belfast and the University of Glasgow.
  • IAESTE UK - provides science, technology and engineering students with the opportunity to embark on a 12-week paid placement in the summer and for longer periods at other times of the year.

There may be Brazilian exchange placements available at postgraduate level at some UK institutions, so check with your university for opportunities.

Doctoral programmes

A PhD - or a Doutorado as they call it in Brazil - is the highest degree you can study and takes three to four years to complete.

You will need a Mestrado (or international equivalent to a Masters) to start a doctoral programme in the country.