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Masters Study in Brazil - A Guide for 2018

Though it may not be the first place that springs to mind when considering postgraduate study abroad, a Masters in Brazil can be an excellent choice for international students in various subject areas.

With more than 100,000 researchers and scholars engaged in research at private and state institutions, Brazil's economic rise has been matched by the development of a sophisticated, modern university system.

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Postgraduate opportunities in Brazil – what’s on offer for 2018?

Brazil is a fascinating location for any postgraduate student looking to live in a country known for exciting cities, dynamic culture, stunning beaches and an incredible biodiversity.

A Masters in Brazil gives you the opportunity to experience all of this while studying at some of Latin America’s most renowned universities. Here are some of the reasons why you should be thinking about a postgraduate degree in Brazil this year:

  • Free tuition – International students enjoy the same status as domestic students at Brazil’s prestigious public universities, which means you won’t usually pay to pay any tuition fees.
  • English-language programmes – Although Portuguese is the primary language of instruction in Brazil, the country’s growing higher education sector is keen to attract more overseas students, and the British Council estimates that there are nearly 700 courses offered in English at Brazilian institutions.
  • University rankings – Brazilian universities dominate Latin American rankings, and the country is the region’s most popular study abroad destination.

Masters Study in Brazil - Key Details
Universities 2,364
Oldest University Federal University of Rio de Janeiro (1792)
International Students 19,855
Course Length 2 years
Average Fees None (at public institutions)
Academic Year February to December

Brazilian universities

Brazil has a diverse higher education system, with a relatively small number of public research universities and many private institutions. As a result of government reforms, public universities tend to offer the best quality education in Brazil.

There are nearly 300 public universities in Brazil, and over 2,000 private higher education institutions.

Public institutions in Brazil fall under several categories:

  • Federal universities
  • State universities
  • Research centres (these can be both federal and state run)
  • Technical higher education institutions under municipal authority

All universities have acronyms (in Portuguese) and those starting with UF are the federal universities.

Brazilian universities dominate rankings in Latin America, with 18 Brazilian institutions in the top 50 in the Latin America Times Higher Education World University Rankings.

Course types

In Brazil, a Masters-level qualification is known as a mestrado; it’s a preparation for research and lasts two years. Similar to Masters programmes in other countries, it includes a taught component and a research project resulting in a dissertation.

To receive a mestrado, you’ll generally need to:

  • Sit a qualifying examination
  • Write a dissertation
  • Have the required number of credits from taught courses (which are also examined)
  • Have a good attendance record for these classes

The dissertation examination is very similar to that of a PhD. This means that it is a public examination in front of a committee. The committee will examine whether you can demonstrate, through your dissertation, that you can use the most advanced techniques for scientific, technological or artistic investigation available in a particular field of knowledge. The committee will be chaired by your supervisor and will have up to three other examiners, all of whom must hold PhDs. As it is a public event, anyone can sit in the audience.

Quality assurance is an important part of the Brazilian higher education sector and graduate programmes are evaluated every two years, with scores ranging from one (lowest) to seven (highest). Programmes with scores of three or below are closely monitored by Coordenação de Aperfeiçoamento de Pessoal de Nível Superior (CAPES), a federal agency within the Brazilian Ministry of Education.

Masters fees and funding in Brazil

There are no tuition fees for Brazilian students at public universities (a right established in the Brazilian Federal Constitution). The great news is that many public universities don’t charge fees to international students either.

Private universities will generally charge tuition fees ranging from USD $2,000 to USD $10,000.

You may also be charged an application fee at both public and private universities. Other costs will include international student health insurance and student services (such as sports facilities). Your student card will give you access to discounted public transport and university restaurants.

Scholarships

There are several scholarships available to study in Brazil but a large number are for one-year study abroad (for example as part of a joint-Masters). Your university or department may also have funds for your research. The biggest expense (if you are studying in a public university) will be associated with living costs.

It’s worth noting that international students are entitled to all the educational loans available to Brazilian students, for accommodation, transport, meals, and books.

Bilateral agreements may have made by embassies, consulates or government agencies to provide bursaries to study in Brazil:

  • The French embassy in Rio de Janeiro offers French students a bursary for Masters and PhD students in the social and sciences through the Réseau Français d’Etudes Brésiliennes (REFEB).
  • The embassies of Portuguese-speaking countries such as Angola also have scholarships available to study in Brazil through bilateral agreements.
  • The Brazilian Student Exchange Program for Graduates (PEC-PG).

    PEC-PG is a programme ran by the Brazilian agency CAPES and provides financial aid to Masters and PhD students to increase the qualifications of professors, researchers, professionals and graduates in developing countries with a cultural or educational cooperation agreement with Brazil. More information (in Portuguese) and a list of eligible countries can be found on the CAPES website.

  • The Fulbright program offers grants to talented American postgraduates to study in Brazil.

The Council on International Educational Exchange have grants available for American students to study abroad:

Applying for a Masters in Brazil

Applicants to a Masters programme often have to take entrance examinations, but check with your university as there are also other selection processes. Entrance examinations, when they are required, may include written and an interview during which the panel assesses the applicant’s motivations.

As with most countries, applications for most postgraduate courses can be made online via individual university websites. Sometimes you will have to contact your chosen department and ask for a form to be sent to you by e-mail. Deadlines for applications for postgraduate study vary depending on the university but can be relatively early. Remember that the academic year starts in February so make sure you check with admissions departments of individual institutions when the deadline is.

As part of the application, you will usually have to provide:

  • An application form
  • Official copies of diplomas (“Official” means that it may have to be stamped by a lawyer or by local authorities at your local town hall, consulate or embassy)
  • Undergraduate transcripts
  • A CV that includes participation in subject-relevant conferences/meetings/courses, experience in teaching, publications as well as relevant professional experience
  • Two or three reference letters
  • A letter from an academic who has agreed to be your supervisor
  • A copy of the receipt showing that you have paid your application fee (where applicable)

The selection process normally consists of reviewing your qualifications, professional experience and the relevance of the course chosen for your future career.

Entry requirements

In Brazil, you need a licentiatura (or any international equivalent to a Bachelor degree) to apply for a Masters. If your long-term aims are to do a PhD, then make sure you select a Masters degree considered as strictu sensu.

By contrast, lato sensu degrees represent a specialisation in a professional area (such as Medicine or Law). A Masters in Management is the equivalent of an MBA.

Examinations and courses are generally delivered in Portuguese so it is essential that you have adequate levels of Portuguese proficiency. To demonstrate your knowledge of Portuguese, you will have to provide a Celpe-Bras certificate, the only Portuguese language test recognised in Brazil.

Even if your course is taught in English, you will require at least some Portuguese before you start your studies (and for everyday life). Most universities offer both pre-sessional and in-sessional intensive Portuguese courses so be sure to find out about those.

Masters student visas in Brazil

There is quite a lot of red tape and bureaucracy in Brazil and the process of getting a visa is rather lengthy.

As a student, you will have to apply for a visa belonging to the category of “temporary residence” visas, which involve considerably more bureaucracy than the simple tourist visa (which would not be long enough for your Masters or PhD). Visas for studies in Brazil are issued for up to one year (renewable).

You will have to apply for your student visa well before your departure to Brazil at a Brazilian embassy or consulate in your home country. In most cases the application process takes two to three months, so allow plenty of time.

For a temporary residence visa, students have to submit the following documents:

  • A passport that is valid for at least six months.
  • Application form (Pedido de Visto) in duplicate.
  • Two passport-size photos.
  • Police statement of no criminal record (not older than 3 months), 1 original and 1 copy.
  • Proof of sufficient funds for the duration of the stay (this may be bank statements, scholarship letter or a letter of guarantee from your parents).
  • Medical examination and yellow fever vaccination card (only if you are from countries it applies to).
  • Confirmation from your educational institution in Brazil stating your enrolment and the duration of your stay. Your host university must be recognised by the Brazilian Ministry of Education.

Once in Brazil you have to register with the federal police within 30 days of your arrival. Beware, federal police offices are sometimes found in international airports rather than the city you are living in (therefore, if you can bear it, complete your police registration when you land in the city you’ll be studying in). Police registration is necessary to formalise your stay and to get an ID card for foreigners. If you fail to present yourself for police registration, a tax will be charged for each day past the 30 days limit. It may prevent you from applying for visa extensions or visa renewal.

As a temporary residence visa holder, you may also apply for a visa for accompanying family members. Note also that as a student in Brazil you are not permitted to take up any paid work, and it’s the same for any dependents or spouse that come with you.

When you need to renew your visa, you will have to submit an application to the Federal Police Department at least 30 days before the expiration date.

Next steps

If you’re tempted to study a Masters in the home of the samba, you can take a look at the Brazilian Masters listed on our website. You can also read our guide to postgraduate life in Brazil.

Already thinking about post-Masters opportunities in Brazil? As one of the emerging BRICS economies (and the largest economy in Latin America), Brazil offers employment possibilities in many sectors, from oil and agriculture to finance and manufacturing.

Any Portuguese you’ve picked up will stand you in good stead, whether in Brazil or further afield – it’s the sixth most spoken native language in the world.

A Brazilian mestrado is also excellent preparation for PhD study.

Search for a Masters in Brazil

Ready to start looking for your ideal study abroad opportunity? Browse and compare Masters degrees in Brazil on FindAMasters.com

Last updated - 04/04/2018

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