Training and Development

The Brazilian trend for Bolivian & Paraguayan qualifications

Every year, thousands of Brazilians go to other Latin American countries, especially Bolivia (an associated country), Argentina, Uruguay and Paraguay, to study professional disciplines. The problem is that, when they come back home, they may or may not have their degree revalidated to work in Brazil.

About two thousand Brazilians go to Paraguay every year, to get a master’s or doctorate degree. The reasons: the courses are much cheaper – (they can cost less than half that of a master’s or doctorate degree in Brazil) – and intensive classes are held during two months in the year, usually the vacation months of January and July.

Brazilian Librarian Irany Barros, who completed her master’s degree in Education Science in 2013 at the Universidad Americana [Spanish], one of the most renowned in Paraguay, told IDG Connect: “I decided to study in Paraguay because I couldn’t be away from my workplace three days in a week to study.” [In Brazil, postgraduate courses are usually part time]. “In Asunción [Paraguay’s capital], I go for 20 days during my vacations and come back to work.”

Everything in Paraguay costs less than in Brazil. The Brazilian currency, the “Real” (BRL), equals approximately 1.5 thousand “Guaranis” (PYG). A stay in a three-star hotel in Asunción can cost less than US$ 60 a day, and a student can pay for all daily meals spending about US$20.

Education could serve as a way to consolidate and scale integration between the Mercosul countries, which are loosely connected today, despite their many cultural, social, and economic similarities. But the majority of Brazilians who finish their courses in Mercosul nations must endure a trial when they come back home. They must find a state university with a similar course to open a revalidation process, which can cost about US$1,200 or more, and offers no warranties of a positive result.

The university can simply refuse to analyze the pledge, can deny the revalidation for any reason, and the student can wait for years to receive a final answer, which, in many cases, is negative.

As part of a minority, Barros had no difficulties revalidating her degree via the Rio de Janeiro Federal University (UFRJ), the institution where she works. “I think that the fact that I work in the UFRJ didn’t help me to revalidate my degree. My work was analyzed, and I had to make some adjustments,” she explains. After the positive experience, she decided to also receive her doctorate in Paraguay. “I recommend the Mercosul courses to many people”. 

According to the National Association of Postgraduates in Foreign Colleges (ANPGIEES, in the Portuguese acronym), there are about ten thousand Brazilians now waiting for revalidation to happen, and this number grows each year.

“There are more than eight thousand Brazilians studying today in a master’s or doctorate course in Mercosul, because of an absolute lack of opportunities in Brazil”, says Carlos Estephanio, Academic Director of the Ideia Institute [Portuguese], an organization that helps Brazilians to study in a Mercosul college, and President of the Brazilian Association of Postgraduates in Mercosul (ABPÓS Mercosul). “But we don’t know how many already have revalidated their diplomas. This is very hard to know, because the universities don’t release the numbers. In fact, the postgraduate sector in Brazil is a ‘black box’”, he explains.

Despite the lack of warranties of degree revalidation, Paraguayan colleges invest in the attraction of foreign students. Like the Ideia Institute, Postgrados Paraguay [Spanish] is an organization focused on giving support to Brazilians who want to study in Paraguay and other Mercosul countries. 

In an introductory email about the courses, the Postgrados explains that “according to the Brazilian act 5.518/05, the courses are valid to academic purposes. There is no necessity to defend the thesis again in Brazil. For other purposes, it’s necessary to contact a Brazilian University with a similar course to ask for a revalidation.”

Estephanio is one of the greatest advocates for changes in the revalidation system and is working with other political representatives to implement an automatic revalidation. “I did my master’s degree studies in Brazil, in a public college, and my doctorate in Paraguay, at the Universidad Americana. If there is any difference between the courses, it is in favor of the Paraguayan one, which is much more serious,” he says.

In fact, one of the greatest reasons that the Brazilian universities give to not revalidate the degree of a course completed in Paraguay is that they say these courses do not have the same level of quality of the Brazilian ones. 

But research conducted by Capes [Portuguese], the institution responsible for regulating the postgraduate courses in Brazil, revealed that, between 2010 and 2012, only 12% of the Brazilian postgraduate courses achieved a grade between six and seven (in a zero to seven scale). In other words, amongst the 3,337 postgraduate programs in Brazil, only 406 [Portuguese] can be considered great or excellent by national standards.

And according to the Times Higher Education World University Rankings 2014-2015, which lists the best global universities, Brazil has only two universities amongst the best 400: the University of São Paulo (USP), ranked 201-225, and  the State University of Campinas (Unicamp), ranked 301-350.

It’s hard to determine if the courses in Paraguay have the same or higher level of quality as the Brazilian ones, but as long as the revalidation process continues to be so complex and uncertain, it’s still risky for Brazilians to invest in a postgraduate program abroad.

Finally, the Idea Institute released a note [Portuguese] in March 2015 stating that the Brazilian Education Ministry (MEC) will probably ease and reorganize the revalidation system, which offers hope for the professionals who have already invested in a Mercosul postgraduate program. For those who are thinking about it, it would probably be more advisable to wait until these changes are actually consolidated before choosing this path.


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Andressa Vieira

Andressa Vieira is a Brazilian Journalist with experience in online media and entrepreneurship. She has worked in the educational and non-profit sectors in Brazil.

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