With hundreds of English-taught courses, and free tuition at public universities, Brazil is an excellent study destination

Brazil is the largest country in South America and covers nearly half of the continent. It is home to the Amazon River, more than half of the Amazon rainforest, and 23 UNESCO World Heritage Sites, including the capital city of Brasília, the Historic Centre of Salvador de Bahia, and Iguaçu National Park. It also has a stunning coastline with many beautiful beaches, such as Copacabana Beach in Rio de Janeiro.

Brazil's heritage and love of football attracts many visitors, but the country also offers excellent prospects for the thousands of international students enrolled each year.

Before travelling to the country, always check the UK government's latest Brazilian travel advice.

Brazilian universities

Brazil has nearly 300 public universities and more than 2,000 private institutions. Public universities are free for international students, but private universities are more expensive. As a result, public universities are more difficult to get into than private universities, with nearly ten applicants per place.

As well as making 35 appearances in the QS World University Rankings 2024 - with four in the top 500 - Brazil dominates the QS Latin America Rankings 2024.

Indeed, 97 Brazilian institutions make the cut, with four in the top ten:

  • Universidade de São Paulo (1st)
  • Universidade Estadual de Campinas/Unicamp (3rd)
  • Universidade Federal do Rio de Janeiro (8th)
  • Universidade Estadual Paulista (10th).

All prospective students must pass the vestibular entrance exam before they can enrol. The vestibular, which typically spans one or two days between November and January, consists of multiple-choice and essay questions on a range of subjects, including literature, maths, and history. It is a formality at private universities, but it is designed to select the most qualified candidates for public universities.   Most public universities in Brazil have a quota system, which reserves a certain number of places for candidates from specific racial or cultural backgrounds. Candidates who qualify for the quota system can apply through the national selection system or directly at their chosen university if the institution has its own independent entrance exams.

Degree courses in Brazil

 The Brazilian higher education system is aligned with the Bologna system of Bachelors, Masters, and PhD degrees. The academic year runs from February to December, with a break in July.

Brazilian institutions offer three types of Bachelors degree:

  • Bachelors (Bacharelado) - the broadest option, which can take three to six years to complete
  • Licentiate (Licenciatura) - an elementary or secondary teaching degree, lasting from three to four years
  • Technology (Tecnologia) - professional programmes offering specialised knowledge, over the course of two to three years.

For these programmes, you'll need to apply directly to your chosen institution.

Masters degrees

A Brazilian Masters degree, or mestrado, is a one- or two-year program that consists of taught courses and a research project culminating in a dissertation.

Before graduation, you will undergo a public assessment, where you will present your thesis to a committee chaired by your supervisor.


A doutorado, or Brazilian PhD degree, is the highest level of postgraduate degree in Brazil and takes three to four years to complete.

To start a Doctoral program in Brazil, you will need a mestrado (or international equivalent) and a high level of Portuguese proficiency. Very few programs are offered in English at this level, and a good grasp of the country's language is essential.

Student exchanges

There are several exchange opportunities for students hoping for a taster of Brazil:

Your university may have its own connections with Brazilian universities and offer exchanges or placements at postgraduate level, so check with your department to see what's available.

Course fees

The Brazilian higher education system treats international students the same as Brazilian nationals when it comes to tuition fees. The Brazilian Federal Constitution guarantees the right to free public education up to postgraduate level, meaning that publicly funded degrees are free for international students.

How much private institutions charge varies - fees typically fall between R$10,000 and R$50,000 (£1,650 and £8,300) per year, depending on where you study.

Remember to factor in additional costs, such as health insurance, student services, course materials, application fees, and maintenance costs like food, accommodation, and leisure activities. Tuition fees may be free, but these additional costs can add up.

Funding to study in Brazil

International students are eligible for the same financial aid as Brazilian nationals, which can subsidise the costs of meals, books, accommodation, and transportation. Each university sets its own rules for financial support, so check with your university to see what you may be eligible for.

Student visas

The temporary visa 'VI' allows for one year's study, which can be extended to suit your needs. The application process takes up to three months, so allow time and begin your application early.

To obtain a visa, you'll need:

  • a valid passport
  • two printed and signed application forms
  • two passport-sized photos
  • evidence of no criminal record, original and duplicate
  • proof of sufficient funds
  • medical records
  • a letter of confirmation from your Ministry of Education (MEC)-approved institute.

You'll be required to register with the federal police in the city you're living in within 30 days of your arrival. This formalises your visit, and you'll receive a foreigners' ID card, which you can then use for other purposes, such as opening a bank account.

To renew your visa, you'll need to submit your application to the federal police at least 30 days before it expires.

Read more about Brazilian visas at the Embassy of Brazil in London.

How to apply

 You can apply for most postgraduate courses via individual university websites, although the majority of these will be in Portuguese.

When applying for postgraduate study, you'll need to prove you have a Bachelors degree (or equivalent), as well as evidence of the following:

  • a completed application form
  • official copies of your qualifications, stamped by authorities at your local Brazilian embassy
  • a CV displaying relevant professional and teaching experience
  • references
  • a letter of confirmation from your university supervisor
  • a copy of the receipt for application fee payment where applicable.

Language requirements

To study in Brazil, you need to prove your proficiency in Portuguese, even if you are taking a course taught in English.

The only test recognised by the Medgar Evers College (MEC) for international students is the CELPE-Bras, which includes a range of listening, reading, writing, and speaking tasks.

The MEC-accredited institution for administering the test in the UK is King's College London. The exam is offered twice a year, typically in April and October, and is comprised of two parts:

  • a three-hour written component, where you'll provide written answers to tasks based on video, audio and text materials
  • a 20-minute oral component, where you'll discuss a topic, not known in advance, with your examiner.

Visit King's College London - CELPE-Bras Exam for full details of the process.

Many courses offer intensive Portuguese classes for non-native speakers, which can help you develop your understanding of the language.

Comparison to UK qualifications

As the Brazilian higher education system is aligned with the Bologna system followed in the UK, having your qualifications recognised shouldn't cause any problems.

Typically, your qualifications will be accepted in Brazil if the institution you are applying to offers an equivalent, such as the Brazilian bacharelado and the UK Bachelors degree.

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