There are many challenges in the Brazilian higher education scenario, including access, success, and quality, among others. However, the recent expansion cycle and the economic boom that occurred in Brazil during recent years, presents new obstacles.
The situation is particularly complicated in areas where there is a shortage of professionals in the country, particularly in fields like engineering. The market pays considerably more than the Universities, especially for starting salaries to young professionals. Furthermore, in the public university system, it is practically mandatory to have at least a PhD to apply for a faculty position, an obligation that represents several years of studies followed by research with a rather reduced fellowship, at most. In fact, there is also a limited number of potential graduate students in these fields as well, creating a vicious cycle from which it is very difficult to exit.
Recent news has indeed confirmed that many universities are really struggling with the lack of potential university professors, As previously mentioned, this problem is clearly a consequence of the recent expansion of the higher education system, as well as the almost full employment situation of the country. Nevertheless, it is worth mentioning that the established rules of the HE sector also play an important role in this issue. The salaries are fixed and the same in all public universities of the same type (mainly Federal and State Universities), and there is no possibility of offering incentives or differentiated salaries for specific persons or areas. In the case of private universities, the salaries are market-driven, but several strategies are employed to reduce costs, such as the extensive use of professors paid by the hour, as well as less qualified faculty (even though the accreditation and assessment processes try to push to the opposite direction).
Few universities in Brazil are responding to the shortage of faculty in specific fields as an occasion to attract foreign faculty members, either from elsewhere in Latin America or Spain and Portugal. There are several obstacles to internationalizing higher education in Brazil, but indeed this shortage of local professors could be great leverage for new policies towards the effective internationalization of the professoriate, which would add an important dimension to the Brazilian higher education (as has it has proven beneficial elsewhere) in the 21st century.
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