Brazil is many people’s dream destination in South America – from the rich Amazon rainforest to the vibrant cities of São Paulo, Brasilia, and Rio. The very name of the country is enough to inspire images of lively parades, delectable cuisine, satisfying weather, and countless pristine beaches.
Brazil is indeed a country with so much to offer, and this includes some of the best universities in the world. In this article, we will go over the best universities in Brazil for international students.
Is Brazil good for international students to study in?
Higher education in Brazil has a distinct European influence, having been a Portuguese colony until 1825. At the same time, the Southern American country has developed its unique quality and has achieved great academic accomplishments since.
Between two to six years, international students can take a Bachelor’s, Associate, or Licentiate degree, as well as one to two years of postgraduate courses in a wide selection of subject areas delivered by first-rate universities.
Brazil is home to several foreign and indigenous languages. While it’s best to learn the Portuguese language, English, Spanish, and Italian are widely used in the country. Living in Brazil is among the most affordable in American and European countries, and students are eligible for free healthcare as well.
Can international students work in Brazil while studying?
According to Resolution no. 88 of Brazil’s Immigration Counsel, foreign nationals studying in Brazilian universities can only engage in practical training. They must also not exceed 30 hours a week or 6 hours a day. However, companies are not required to pay a salary for training.
Check Also: Available Programs for International Students
Can international students stay in Brazil after graduation?
International students can only stay in Brazil as long as their student visas (Vitem IV) are valid. However, Brazil does not currently allow changing visa types while in the country. So as soon as Vitem IV expires or after graduation, students should return to their home country first, and from there, apply for another type of visa to be able to stay in Brazil.
Best Universities in Brazil
1. University of São Paulo (USP)
The University of São Paulo is considered one of Brazil’s most prestigious institutions for higher education, ranking among the top 100 universities in the world. Established in 1934, it came about as a merger of an existing faculty of law, school of engineering, and college of agriculture in the state of São Paulo. Today, the university is involved in a wider scope of teaching and research besides the three original disciplines. It has expanded to include architecture, philosophy, journalism, information systems, and environmental management, among others.
On top of a wide array of programs, the USP also manages five hospitals, over 50 libraries, several museums and art galleries, and research centers. The USP welcomes students from all continents, as well, with its International Office that efficiently handles global academic network activities, such as Erasmus Mundus and SMILE (Student Mobility in Latin America, Caribbean, and Europe.)
2. University of Campinas (Unicamp)
Another excellent university in Brazil for international students is the University of Campinas, an integrated research center with a scientific and medical focus. Unlike most Brazilian universities, Unicamp was not established by merging existing schools. It was designed from the very beginning for research and development instead. In fact, it has the largest proportion of graduate students in all Brazilian universities. Unicamp offers over 70 degree-granting undergraduate programs in the exact sciences, human sciences, biological sciences, and technical studies.
Besides top-notch programs and research opportunities, Unicamp is renowned for its extension programs to the community. These specialization courses have varying minimum requirements for non-degree career training for those in need of it. Unicamp also remains internationally accessible either through easy mobility of foreign students or through several online courses.
3. Federal University of Minas Gerais (UFMG)
The Universidade Federal de Minas Gerais is the largest federal university in Brazil. It was founded in 1927 as one of the oldest higher education institutions in the country and has been a powerful influence in the cultural and economic life of its location in Belo Horizonte and the rest of Brazil. Today, its main purpose is knowledge development and transmission through teaching and research.
The UFMG offers programs in nearly all areas of knowledge and at all levels, too. Over 180 programs for undergraduate and graduate levels award students with a globally recognized Bachelor’s degree, a Licentiate degree, or a professional title. This top university in Brazil for international students also provides many academic and non-academic services and facilities for its students, including international partnerships, study abroad programs, distance learning programs, and administrative support services.
4. Federal University of Rio Grande do Sul (UFRGS)
The Federal University of Rio Grande do Sul is a public research-led university offering free higher education to over 43,000 undergraduate and graduate students. It began as a school of chemistry and pharmacy, expanded with an engineering college, and later added several disciplines, including law, communication, agriculture, and fine arts. Today, the university prioritizes innovation, national and international involvement, and the continuous updating of infrastructure and academic facilities for its students.
The UFRGS is one of the largest universities in Brazil with over 300 buildings accommodating 29 colleges. In addition, the university campus includes 500 laboratories, 37 lecture halls, 33 libraries, a museum, a botanical garden, an observatory, campus accommodation, and the Hospital Clínicas de Porto Alegre.
5. Federal University of São Paulo (UNIFESP)
The Federal University of São Paulo is one of the best universities in Brazil. From its establishment in 1933 until 2005, it was exclusively for Health Sciences. It became multi-subject under the direction of the Brazilian Federal Government’s University Reform Program (REUNI), expanding the prestigious university into six campuses. Today, students can pursue other degree programs in addition to health science, including engineering, psychology, computer science, business administration, social sciences, and many others.
The university has grown significantly in the previous decade and has accumulated sites around the São Paulo state. Furthermore, the UNIFESP is not only physically accessible to international students. The school also manages several online platforms where students from all over the world can access their educational material, including Coursera and e-Classes.
6. São Paulo State University (UNESP)
Grabbing 12th place in the University Latin America Rankings, the São Paulo State University (UNESP) is one of the newest yet largest public universities in Brazil whose strength lies in research and sustainability. UNESP implements Coordination for the Improvement of Higher Education Personnel (CAPES) paving the way for the internationalization of UNESP’s programs and allowing foreign institutions to collaborate with UNESP.
Cultural diversity is prime for UNESP’s standard of classroom conduciveness. They accept foreign students in their onsite classes and in their virtual exchange program called Brazilian Virtual Exchange Program (BRaVE). The application process for international students is quick and easy because of the online guidebook they provide.
7. Federal University of Santa Catarina (UFSC)
Pursuing a free, quality philosophical, scientific, artistic, and technological education for its students and faculty, the Federal University of Santa Catarina ranks 4th best in Brazil according to the Índice Geral de Cursos (IGC) and 23rd best in Latin America in the Times Higher Education (THE) World University Rankings 2022.
With over 300 partner institutions all over the globe, the UFSC is open to accepting international students as exchange students through their home universities. Endorsement can be done by the interested student’s university through the UFSC’s online system. The complete guidelines are found on their website.
8. Federal University of Paraná (UFPR)
One of the largest and oldest universities in Brazil, the Federal University of Paraná places 8th in Brazil according to the Ranking Universitário Folha (RUF) while maintaining in the range of #651-700 best university worldwide. The UFPR is a public university with over 46,000 students enrolled in 14 academic units with 124 undergraduate courses and more than 110 graduate programs. Almost 70% of the teaching personnel graduated with a doctorate.
The institution covers a vast range of disciplines such as the Arts, Communication, and Design Sector, Agrarian Sciences Sector, Life Science Sector, Legal Sector, Education Sector, and Palotina Sector. Laboratories and libraries are situated on each of the campuses. International students may apply via coordination with the partner university. A motivation letter, recommendation letter from the home institution, and the applicant’s recent transcript must be prepared as part of the application documents.
9. State University of Londrina (UEL)
Grabbing the tenth best place among the Brazilian universities in the QS World University Rankings and the 9th best place in the 2017 UI GreenMetric World University Ranking, the State University of Londrina is one of the top Brazilian universities that excels in the fields of education and global research and development. UEL has nine Study Centers home to 53 undergraduate courses and 261 graduate courses. It forwards a science-driven approach in all its fields while leading the country in the disciplines of Law, Philosophy, and Dentistry since the 1950s. UEL is also a pillar in Information and Communication Technology.
Interested undergraduate international students may contact the International Relations Office to acquire the necessary documents. Opportunities for graduate studies include Exchange Program for Undergraduate Students (PEC-PG) and Organization of American States (OAS).
10. University of Brasília (UNB)
With the aim to revolutionize the teaching pedagogy and deliver a future-oriented academy, the University of Brasilia invokes the significance of being committed to ethical principles, being socially responsible, and adhering to sustainable development. The university sees inclusivity as its edge in being one of the best universities in Brazil—garnering the highest rank in the Brazilian Ministry of Education’s General Course Index.
Students of UNB, both local and foreign alike, enjoy free tuition. Entry in UNB can be done in three ways: to apply under the Exchange Program with partner universities, to register at the Program for Undergraduate Students (PEC-G), and to be an International Visiting Student. Scholarships are also available to foreign students.
11. Pontifical Catholic University of São Paulo (PUC-SP)
Ranking #801-1000 in the prestigious QS World University Rankings 2023, the Pontifical Catholic University of São Paulo was also recognized as one of the best universities in Brazil in terms of pedagogy by the Brazilian Ranking de Universidades da Folha (RUF). Its five campuses are scattered across the state, all under the Catholic Archdiocese.
International students can be admitted on the basis of a partnership between PUC-SP and a certified partner institution. One can still be admitted as a “special student” if they are from a non-partner university. When the application has been approved by the Program Coordinator of the selected course, the applicant can now experience a liberal, diverse, and bright college life at the PUC-SP.
12. Federal University of Santa Maria (UFSM)
The Federal University of Santa Maria is the oldest public, federal university outside the state capital city. UFSM ranks 23rd in the Best Global Universities in Brazil with two of its subject offerings ranking within the top 100—Agricultural Sciences at the 95th position, and Food and Science Technology at the 99th spot. The university also hosts a wide range of interdisciplinary events such as the forum on the Application of the Metaverse in Teaching, 43rd Soybean Research Meeting, XXII Brazilian Symposium on Information Security and Computer Systems, and the Paralympic Festival 2022.
If you’re a student who values extra-curricular activities just as much as academic exposure, then this excellent Brazilian university is the right place for you. To apply for a slot in being an exchange student, you need to secure the nomination of your current university. Once this nomination is approved by UFSM, you can then start processing your Brazilian student VISA. You may apply for either Bilateral Agreements or the Associación de Universidades Grupo Montevideo (AUGM).
13. Federal University of Amazonas (UFAM)
The Federal University of Amazonas, the oldest university in Brazil and a runner-up among the best universities in Brazil, ranks #161-170 in the Latin America University Rankings. The UFAM academic unit has 96 undergraduate courses and 39 graduate courses to choose from. These are composed of degrees in agricultural sciences, biological sciences, exact sciences, and the humanities. It has a total of five campuses spread across Alto Solimões, Coari, Madeira, Greater Manaus, and Parintins.
International students can apply for student dormitories as needed. Exchange programs are present in selected universities such as the University of Missouri School of Music. Aside from that, other foreign students can apply through their website.
14. Federal University of Goiás (UFG)
Universidade Federal De Goiás (UFG) is a public and secular university established in Goiás. The university gives importance to expanding its sociocultural spectrum by welcoming students and staff of diverse races, socio-political leanings, religious beliefs, socioeconomic status, and gender and sexual orientation into the academe. This kind of diversity is manifested in the university’s two special Academic Units with 102 undergraduate courses and 78 postgraduate courses. UFG is also home to the Professor José Ângelo Rizzo Biological Reserve, a 144-hectare conservation area, and several laboratories, an art gallery, a cinema, a convention center, and a cultural center.
The UFG accepts international students. To begin the application, an online form shall be filled out. Pertinent documents such as a passport, chosen curricular activity, and a motivation letter are required to complete the online form. You may visit their guidebook for international students here.
15. Estácio de Sá University (UNESA)
In the last 50 years, the Estácio de Sá University in Rio de Janeiro excels in the legal study of rights, psychology, full stack development, and medicine. UNESA also offers degree certification programs and courses to be completed in less than 4 years such as English and Mathematics Pedagogical Training, Photography, and Public Management.
International students can study at UNESA via the exchange programs under institutions with partnership agreements with UNESA. The tuition for international students is paid for by the university. Scholarships are also available for those who need financial assistance in lodging and daily subsistence.
I hope that this article on the best universities in Brazil was helpful! If you’re interested in studying abroad make sure to check out the Available Programs for International Students!