This is a best prospect industry sector for this country. Includes a market overview and trade data.
Last Published: 4/3/2018


Despite the current economic/political challenges that Brazil is going through, it is the fifth largest higher education market in the world and the largest higher education market in Latin America.  Education expenditure for 2017 was US$ 34 billion.  According to the National Plan for Education, the goal is to spend 10 percent by 2024. The Brazilian Ministry of Education’s budget for 2018 is projected to be US$30 billion.

Brazil has 57 million students in its basic education system, with 8.7 million in pre-school, 37.2 million in elementary school and 11.1 million in high school. The higher education sector includes 7.3 million enrolled students. Approximately 72 percent of higher education students go to private institutions.

The education sector is a high priority for the Government of Brazil. The internationalization of higher education is a subject that is gaining increasing relevance both for public and private Brazilian Higher Education Institutions. Brazilian federal research agencies have a long history of supporting international research partnerships, and such bilateral agreements with various countries in Europe, North and Latin America have existed for decades. However, available English language courses at Brazilian universities are still limited but growing.

In contrast to the segment for primary education, private institutions dominate higher education in Brazil. Public institutions in Brazil are small and are not capable of meeting the overall demand for higher education courses. Public higher education institutions are directed to serve as centers of excellence and research, with extremely competitive admissions standards and a limited capacity for expansion. Private higher education institutions are focused on meeting the professional requirements of the labor market and have developed flexible programs to meet the needs of the working population.

Industry specialists such as Hoper Education expect that despite the challenging economic/political situation, the education sector in Brazil will continue to grow, particularly the distance-learning segment. The lower monthly tuition fees in distance learning are expected to increase the penetration of higher education in Brazil. Distance learning solutions are particularly attractive to the large number of private, for-profit universities in Brazil. According to the Brazilian Association of Distance Learning (ABED), out of the 226 institutions that offer distance-learning classes, 64 percent are private, while 36 percent are public.

Leading Sub-Sectors

Brazil ranks tenth as a country of origin for foreign students studying in U.S. universities. In the 2016-17 academic year, 13,089 students from Brazil were studying in the United States. The breakdown was as follows: 48.2 percent undergraduate; 30.4 percent graduate students; 8.5 percent other (language, short-term non-degree programs, etc.), 12.9 percent OPT (Optional Practical Training).

Non-recognition of foreign university credits toward earning a degree in Brazil is a barrier to U.S. education exports. The Ministry of Education is in the early stages of creating a system to recognize foreign university degrees. Once the system is established, foreign universities will have to register to be included on the certified list; this is intended to be a fast-track system for students to have their foreign diplomas recognized.  For continuing education purposes, the private universities have authority to work on case-by-case diploma acceptance.

Despite the bureaucratic challenges of having U.S. degrees recognized in Brazil, the number of Brazilian students choosing U.S. education is significant. Brazilian students in U.S. colleges and universities contributed $676 million to the U.S. economy in 2016.

Approximately 80 percent of Brazilian students who study abroad come from Brazil’s southern and central eastern states (São Paulo, Santa Catarina, Rio Grande do Sul, Paraná, Rio de Janeiro, Brasília and Minas Gerais). Among these states (each of which presents excellent opportunities for overseas recruitment), São Paulo, Brasília, and Rio de Janeiro represent the three best locations to recruit Brazilian students to study in the United States. São Paulo has the largest applicant pool, and attracts the most talented students to its own university campuses. The capital city of Brasília, located in Distrito Federal (Federal District) has the country’s highest GDP per capita at approximately $16,500, over twice that of São Paulo, the region with the second-highest GDP per capita. The state of Rio de Janeiro (the country’s hub for the oil and gas industry) attracts many engineering and science majors. EducationUSA includes each of these three cities in its annual South American Roadshow in August.

Brazil recognizes the need to improve English language skills across the country. The majority of the population (including those employed in the tourism sector) lack basic English language skills, which is the main challenge for many Brazilian students applying for study abroad programs. Institutions that can address this issue by providing conditional acceptance tied to English language training or other such “pathway programs,” may have a competitive advantage in attracting Brazilian students.

Although private English language schools are abundant, student exchange programs are a huge market in Brazil, especially short-term and part-time programs.  Examples of exchange programs currently popular in Brazil include part-time study programs combined with tourism and outdoors sports; teen vacation (specifically for teenagers with a mix of classes and leisure activities) and English language programs designed for 50+ year old students. 

U.S. schools interested in recruiting in Brazil should provide creative financing options, including options to pay in installments, since cost (along with proficiency in English language skills) will continue to be a challenge for Brazilian students studying abroad. Installment payments are also widely popular throughout Brazil, from personal care to larger purchases such as computers.


Provision of technology, equipment, and curricula for technical courses also present good opportunities for U.S. entities in Brazil. Since 2007, the Education Ministry has invested in “PROINFO,” a program that promotes information technology as an important teaching tool. The program promotes installations of technology labs in public elementary and high schools, laptops for teachers and students, digital boards, projectors, and tablets. In 2018, the government will continue to invest in technology programs with additional purchases of tablets for teachers, computers for technology laboratories at schools and universities, smart and digital boards, projectors, and other learning technologies. 

For the next decade, the fastest growing segment of the educational market in Brazil will be short-term vocational and English learning courses, due to government investments in technical schools and courses for high schools’ students and adults. Over the past five years, demand for professional/vocational courses grew 50 percent.

In 2011, the Government of Brazil launched “PRONATEC” (National Program for Technical Courses and Jobs) and designated $3.5 billion for the program. Companies and educational institutions interested in participating in these programs should consider partnering with local companies or universities. The National Confederation of Industry (CNI), through its Technical Schools SESI, SENAC, and SENAI, is also offering vocational courses. 


Education fairs are one of the most efficient means to recruit individual Brazilian students, including the biannual “EducationUSA” roadshows, supported by the U.S. Department of State's Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs (ECA).  The roadshow happens on the first semester of the year and the EducationUSA fair happens on the second semester of the year. Universities interested in participating and exhibiting at the fairs should contact the EducationUSA office in Brazil.

Study Travel - ALPHE Conferences –March 7-9, 2018 – São Paulo – The Conference creates an environment for networking between international educators and student recruitment agents.

FAUBAI Conference –April 14 – 18, 2018 – Rio de Janeiro – The Brazilian Association for International Education (FAUBAI) meets annually to promote the improvement of exchange programs and international cooperation as a means to improve teaching, research, extension and administration of affiliated institutions, seeking to stimulate the continuous improvement of the management of international exchange and cooperation.

Bett Brasil Educar – May 8 – 11, 2018 – São Paulo – Despite the fact that the vast majority of exhibitors are domestic manufacturers of low cost equipment trying to capture a portion of the market created by Education Ministry spending on PROINFO, this show represents the best annual opportunity to exhibit classroom technology and furniture in Brazil. The main objective of Bett Brasil Educar is to provide an enabling environment for network, business and present solutions to improve the quality of the Brazilian education.

ICEF - September 20-22, 2018 – São Paulo – This workshop provides an opportunity for international educators from all sectors to consolidate existing partnerships as well as establish new ones with quality, screened student recruitment agents. This is the largest event of its kind in Brazil.

Web Resources

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Brazil Education Trade Development and Promotion