The first schools of higher education were founded in Brazil in 1808 with the arrival of the Portuguese royal family to the country. This year, the schools of Surgery and Anatomy were created Monografias Prontas in Salvador (today the Faculty of Medicine of the Federal University of Bahia), the Anatomy and Surgery School in Rio de Janeiro (current Faculty of Medicine of UFRJ) and the Marine Guard Academy, also in Rio. Two years later, the Royal Military Academy (current National School of Engineering of UFRJ) was founded. They followed the course of Agriculture in 1814 and the Royal Academy of Painting and Sculpture1. Until the proclamation of the republic in 1889, higher education developed very slowly, followed the model of training of liberal professionals in isolated colleges, and aimed at securing a professional diploma with the right to occupy privileged positions in a restricted labor market, social prestige. It should be emphasized that the non-university character of teaching was not demerit for higher education since the level of teachers should be equal to that of the University of Coimbra and the courses were of a long duration Monografias Prontas.

With political independence in 1822 there was no change in the format of the education system, nor its expansion or Monografias Prontas. The power elite had no perceived advantages in setting up universities. There are 24 projects proposed for the creation of universities in the period 1808-1882, none of which were approved3. After 1850 there was a slight expansion of the number of educational institutions with consolidation of some scientific centers such as the National Museum, the Imperial Geological Commission and the National Observatory Monografias Prontas. The expansion of higher education, limited to the liberal professions in few public institutions, was contained by the central government’s investment capacity and depended on its political will.

Until the end of the 19th century, there were only 24 higher education institutions in Brazil with about 10,000 students3. From then on, the private initiative created its own establishments of superior education thanks to the legal possibility disciplined by the Constitution of the Republic (1891). Private institutions have emerged from the initiative of Catholic local and confessional elites. The educational system of São Paulo emerged at this time and represented the first major break with the model of schools under the control of the central government. Among the courses created in São Paulo during this period are those of Civil, Electrical and Mechanical Engineering (1896), of the current Mackenzie University, which is a Presbyterian confessional. Over the next 30 years, the educational system expanded considerably, from 24 isolated schools to 133, 86 of which were created in the 1920s Monografias Prontas.

The idea of ​​a university mobilized generations of proponents and critics of this form of teaching. The project elaborated by the secular intellectual elite defended the public university in opposition to the model of isolated institutions and proposed the institutionalization of the research in its interior. Some countries of Hispanic America had universities in the colonial period, the first of which was created in Mexico in 1553, thanks to the imperial conception of Spain different from that of Portugal. In contrast, Portuguese pragmatism did not allow Brazil to have universities in the colonial period, and the formation of the higher education nucleus only began with the arrival of the Portuguese royal family. Its development was focused on professional training under state control. The model adopted combined the pragmatism of the Pombaline reform in Portugal (to liberate the teaching of the conservative obstacles that were responsible for the delay of the country in relation to the other Europeans), and the Napoleonic model that contemplated the divorce between teaching and scientific research Monografias Prontas.

In the 1920s, the debate about the creation of universities was no longer restricted to strictly political issues (state control) as in the past, but to the concept of a university and its functions in society. The functions defined were to house science, scientists and promote research. Universities would not only be mere institutions of learning but centers of disinterested knowledge. At the time, the country had about 150 isolated schools and the two existing universities, Paraná and Rio de Janeiro, were no more than clusters of isolated schools. It was on the basis of these debates that the provisional government of Getúlio Vargas promoted (in 1931) a broad educational reform, known as the Francisco Campos Reform (the country’s first Minister of Education), authorizing and regulating the functioning of universities, including the collection of annuities , since public education was not free. The university should organize itself around a nucleus constituted by a school of Philosophy, Science and Letters. Although the reform represented a breakthrough, it did not meet the main banner of the 1920s movement for not giving public exclusivity to higher education and allowing the operation of isolated institutions Monografias Prontas.

The period from 1931 to 1945 was characterized by an intense dispute between lay and Catholic leaders for the control of education. In exchange for support for the new regime, the government offered the Church the introduction of optional religious instruction in the basic cycle, which actually occurred in 1931. The ambitions of the Catholic Church were greater and culminated in the initiative of creating its own universities in the following decade.

The period from 1945 to 1968 witnessed the struggle of the student movement and of young teachers in the defense of public education, of the university model as opposed to isolated schools and in the demand for the elimination of the private sector by public absorption. The discussion on the reform of the whole system of education, but especially that of the university, was on the agenda. The main criticisms of the university model were: the institution of the chair, the compartmentalization due to the commitment to the professional schools of the 1931 reform (which resisted appropriateness and maintained autonomy), and the elitist character of the university. The professor for life, with powers of appointment or dismissal of auxiliaries, was considered as an obstacle to the organization of a university career and came to symbolize rigidity and anachronism. Elitism was reflected in the attendance of a small portion of the population, especially the most privileged strata. What was intended was the extinction of the chair, with departmental organization dependent on democratic decisions. This debate permeated the discussion of the Law of Guidelines and Foundations of Education, approved by Congress in 1961, which, unlike the 1931 reform, did not insist that higher education should be organized preferably in universities. For the “reformers” the LDB of 1961 represented a defeat and was considered a victory of the defenders of the private initiative, waving the banner of freedom of education Tese de Doutorado.

The military regime initiated in 1964 dismantled the student movement and kept under surveillance the public universities, seen as centers of subversion, resulting in the purge of important leaderships of higher education and the expansion of the private sector, especially since 19704,5. The 1968 reform, in spite of a civil rights deterioration, was inspired by many of the ideas of the student movement and the intelligentsia of previous decades: 1 – instituted the department as a minimum unit of education, 2 – created the institutes 3 – organized the curriculum in basic and professional cycles, 4 – changed the entrance examination, 5 – abolished the chair, 6 – made the decisions more democratic, 7 – institutionalized the research, 8 – centralized decisions in federal bodies. From 1970, the government policy for the area was to stimulate post-graduation and teacher training (IDCP).

In 1933, when the first statistics on education were available, the private sector accounted for 64.4% of establishments and 43.7% of enrollments in higher education, proportions that did not change substantively until the decade of 1960 because the expansion of private education was counterbalanced by the creation of state universities and federation with the annexation of private institutions.3 In the period 1940-1960 the population of the country increased from 41.2 million to 70 million (growth of 70%), while enrollments in higher education tripled. In 1960, there were 226,218 university students (of whom 93,202 were from the private sector) and 28,728 surplus (approved in the entrance examination for public universities, but not admitted due to lack of places). In 1969, surpluses totaled 161,527. Demand pressure led to an extraordinary expansion in higher education in the period 1960-1980, with enrollment numbers jumping from approximately 200,000 to 1.4 million, ¾ parts of the increase served by private enterprise. At the end of the 1970s, the private sector accounted for 62.3% of enrollments, and in 1994 for 69% 4. It should be noted that the choice of the public sector by universities that combine teaching and research has raised the costs of public education, restricting its capacity for expansion, and opened the space for the private sector to meet the demand not absorbed by the State. Nevertheless, the dynamism of the growth of the private sector in search of profit may have occurred at the expense of quality. Although the legal requirement of the 1968 reform established the unique model of higher education with the indissociability of teaching and research, in practice the system expanded through the proliferation of isolated establishments and few universities were able to institute scientific production. On the other hand, the lack of recognition of the convenience or necessity of heterogeneity, which condition the performance of the current regulatory agency (MEC), can stimulate falsity or formal compliance with norms, inhibiting the recognition of what may be positive or innovative in the alternative model. However, the insistence on the single model stimulates the private sector’s adequacy, generating additional demand in the post-graduation period, mainly from the public sector (better equipped for this type of education) and fostering research Dissertação de Mestrado.

From 1980 onwards, there was a progressive reduction in the demand for higher education due to the retention and evasion of high school students, the inadequacy of the universities to the new market demands and the frustration of the expectations of potential customers. In the 1990s, the ratio of high school graduates and places offered in higher education is 1/1 in the South and Southeast, 1 / 1.3 in the Midwest, and 1 / 2.5 in the North and Northeast.4 While in 1980 about 11% of the vacancies offered in higher education courses were not met, in 1990 the proportion passed to 19%. Between 1985 and 1993 the number of vacancies offered in higher education remained relatively stable, around 1,500,000, with relative decline in private sector participation. The internalization of higher education, which began in the 1950s, has been accentuated with one of the basic reasons being the creation of facilities or the search for clientele. Another response to the stability of demand was the sharp increase in the number of courses and the fragmentation of careers by the private sector to bring new offers to the market and thereby attract clientele. The fragmentation of careers (in various areas of knowledge) makes courses less expensive and converges to what happens in some areas in other countries.

One of the main transformations of higher education in the twentieth century consisted in the fact that they were also intended to serve the masses and not exclusively to the elite. In one of the studies of the 1990s, it was observed that in higher education, students from families with incomes of up to 6 minimum wages represented approximately 12% of those enrolled in private institutions and 11% in public institutions. In both the private and public sectors, the proportion of students from families with incomes above 10 minimum wages exceeds 60%, which demystifies the belief that the less favored are those who attend the private institution7. If, on the one hand, there is an expressive contingent of upper-level students coming from middle-income sectors, it is clear that the less fortunate do not enjoy the equal opportunity of access to higher education, be it public or private, not for lack of vacancies or reform of this, but for social problems and deficiencies of elementary education.

In the 1990s, the proportion of young people between the ages of 20 and 24 who entered higher education accounted for 11.4%, giving Brazil the 17th place among Latin American countries, surpassing only Nicaragua and Honduras8. It is not an honorable position that as commented on is not conditioned by lack of places in higher education, but by the number of high school graduates. The deficiencies of fundamental public education have been partially overcome by the excellent quality of teaching in private institutions. However, this market solution discriminates against the large number of the less favored population, which will remain so long as there is no improvement in income distribution, fundamental public education and the broader labor market. Some decisions of the Federal Government seeking to increase the supply of vacancies in elementary education and the offer of school scholarships seem to be appropriate, though by themselves insufficient, measures. The government’s own restrictions on failure in elementary school (as adopted in the State of São Paulo), if well understood by the teachers of the respective levels and perceived as increasing their responsibilities in the recovery of the students to which they are subject, represent another attempt to implement the population and to increase the number of secondary school graduates.