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Higher education in Brazil

This article was taken from another site (see link below) and posted on this blog by Michael leitch for EDUCATIONAL PURPOSES.


UNIVERSITIES in Brazil have long been for the privileged few. Only 11% of the population of working-age has a degree—and such scarcity has brought rich rewards. Graduates earn, on average, 2.5 times as much as those without degrees, and five times as much as the majority who never finished secondary school. Until recently those gains, higher than anywhere in the OECD, a group of mainly rich countries, went mostly to those who had attended private schools. To cap the unfairness, they went on to public universities where they paid no fees.

Students in Brazil’s public universities are still whiter and richer than average, and much more likely to have been privately schooled. And taxpayers still pick up their tab, spending five times as much per university student as per schoolchild. But explosive growth in private, for-profit universities is at last opening up higher education (see chart).

In 2010, the latest year for which figures are available, there were around 2,400 universities or colleges of further education, of which only a tenth were public. Some of the rest were charitable, mostly Catholic. But three-quarters were run for profit, including the biggest five.

None of the for-profit institutions has the prestige or resources of the best public ones, such as theUniversityofSão Paulo,Latin America’s sole star in international rankings. Some are little more than diploma mills of dubious quality. But a qualification from one of the leaders can double a youngster’s starting salary, says Alexandre Oliveira of the International Finance Corporation, part of the World Bank. Private universities’ role in cutting poverty is why the IFC invests in three inBrazil: two giants, Anhanguera and Estácio de Sá, with 650,000 students between them, and the smaller Maurício de Nassau.

A large population of young adults, deficient schools and the growth of industries, such as oil, that demand skilled workers all mean that the demand for higher education will continue to rise says Carlos Parizotto of Cypress, a consultancy. Since the public sector will lack the cash to expand provision, this will have to come from private institutions.

  The government recognises this. It offers private universities tax breaks in return for giving around a tenth of their places free or at discounts to students on modest incomes, benefiting more than 1m pupils since 2005. Some 300,000 students will get low-interest loans this year. As well as boosting demand, these schemes have helped to raise standards (because beneficiaries must reach minimum entry requirements) and cut drop-out rates.

Even so, more than half of students in higher education drop out before completing their courses, hobbled by money worries, a poor grounding in the basics and hectic schedules (most courses are part-time at night). Such considerations put many aspiring students off too. As long as jobs and salaries stay buoyant, the money worries may ease. But universities will have to spend on technology and seek economies of scale if they are to improve quality, cut costs, keep the students they have and woo more.

That suggests a shake-out in the private sector may continue. The past few years have seen well-capitalised Brazilian groups such as Anhanguera, Estácio and Kroton, which are listed on São Paulo’s stock exchange, and big foreign ones such as DeVry and Laureate, both American, swallow many minnows. But there are still plenty of others that could profitably be gobbled up.

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