The Expansion of Brazilian Higher Education and Social Inequalities

Thursday, 2 July 2015: 10:15 AM-11:45 AM
CLM.4.02 (Clement House)
Maria-Ligia de Oliveira Barbosa, Universidade Federal do Rio de Janeiro, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil
Over the past 25 years the Brazilian system of higher education has expanded a lot and has also diversified. New courses and new school paths were offered as well as different types of diplomas. Since 1998, we went from 1 million to 7.5 million students in 2014. Thousands of students from popular classes entered the university. Public policies such as quotas or scholarships secured a significant expansion of access to tertiary education.

Will this expansion produce a democratization of educational opportunities? There are differences between students of different social groups in terms of their performance and for their ability to remain until the end of the course and get diplomas. The labor market assigns unequal values for different qualifications (licenses, bachelors, technologists). All this happens in every country. Perhaps the inequalities produced in the Brazilian higher education system are stronger than in other cases. We believe that the production of those inequalities is associated with some characteristics of the higher education system, especially the so-called academic bias. .

In this study the following forms of expression of academic bias will be analyzed: 1. Devaluation of practical knowledge and preference for theoretical training. 2. Devaluation of the technical and specialized knowledge and preference for generalist view. 3. Exclusive appreciation of bachelor degree at the expense of licenses and technology tertiary training. 4. Management of the courses: shifts, schedules, allocation of teachers.
Some of these items seem to indicate the existence of elite strategies to maintain social position. Higher education in Brazil is mostly positional and less devoted to training or professional qualification. This became more evident in recent times. In the circumstances mentioned: there would be a strengthening of social inequalities due to the higher education system.

This analysis will used mostly official data: higher education census and other data from INEP (ministry of education institution that produces data on the various levels of the Brazilian educational system) and some qualitative studies developed in the Research Laboratory on Brazilian Higher Education (LAPES/UFRJ).