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Regulatory changes and challenges in Brazilian higher education: an overview of its privatisation process

Thu, May 24, 7:30 to 9:00pm, TBA


Brazilian higher education has been through marked changes over the past two decades. Until 1999, all higher education institutions in the country had to be non-profit organisations. Since the law regulating the sector has been altered to allow for profit, the number of institutions and students enrolled in Brazilian higher education has increased exponentially, most markedly in the private sector. While the higher education sector had 2,7million students enrolled in under graduation courses in 2000 this number increased to approximately 7 million in 2012 (Brazilian educational census, 2012). This remarkable growth has naturally been accompanied by unprecedented challenges regarding the quality of education and the overall regulation of the sector. The National System for the Evaluation of Higher Education (SINAES) was instituted in 2004 to address these challenges. Initially designed with the formative mandate of stimulating self-regulation and self-assessment, SINAES acquired a more direct behaviour modification mandate with the establishment of the Technical Commission for Evaluation in 2006. Currently its regulatory roles include information gathering through evaluations of higher education institutions, standard setting of minimal levels of educational quality and behaviour modification through the establishment of sanctions. Despite this movement towards more command and control, the quality of the information gathered by the institution on educational quality is still pointed out as extremely rudimentary (Nunes, Fernandes & Albrecht, 2014) generating issues of regulatory fairness and promoting distrust among regulated institutions. This paper will provide an overview of the recent history of Brazilian higher education regulation as well as an exploration of the reasons and challenges associated to this movement towards more command and control. The aim is to provide an initial assessment of its effectiveness in enhancing the quality of higher education in Brazil, as well as an identification of potential negative side effects of its implementation process.