By Stephanie Foden and Chesney Hearst, Contributing Reporters

RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL – Federal prosecutors are investigating seventy complaints of college courses across the country operating without authorization from the Ministry of Education (MEC). Most of the complaints were made by students who experienced difficulties while trying to obtain their graduate and post-graduate diplomas.

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José Henrique Paim, Brazilian Minister of Education, photo courtesy of Agência Senado.

Additionally, grievances included allegations of false advertising by institutions and irregular administrative and academic management. Over the past two years, sixteen graduate and undergraduate courses were closed for either not having official permission to run or not meeting other rules established by the MEC.

In the northern state of Pará, the Ministry closed two evangelical-run courses: The Open Faculty of Philosophy, Theology, Religious Education and Physical Education (Faentrepe) and The School of Theology and Vocational Training (Eftepro).

According to Pará’s Regional Attorney for Citizens’ Rights, Alan Rogério Mansur Silva, some institutions’ practices are questionable, “In most cases a college with permission to operate in a certain state illegally provides educational services in a different state. And in the end, the student earns a diploma through a process called ‘extraordinary achievement.'”

“Extraordinary achievement” is a measure provided by Law 9.394/96 for “students who have outstanding achievement in studies, demonstrated through tests and other specific assessment instruments, applied by special examiners, that may shorten the duration of their courses.”

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Students from Gama Filho in front of the MEC in Brasília, photo by Valter Campanato/Agência Brasil.

However, according to federal prosecutors in some places, the process is reversed: students are given certificates verifying their studies before they have done them or demonstrated the acquired knowledge through testing. Some students reportedly pay the tuition and exam fees as a way to earn a diploma faster.

Mateus Souza, Professor at Faculdade São Bento da Bahia in Salvador and former professor at five other institutions, feels that the recognition of the MEC is more of a bureaucratic formality than an actual assessment procedure that gives authorization to operate courses.

“I lived with some colleagues who are evaluators of the system, and I heard from many of them that there is an approval policy. It is really rare in relative terms, for the MEC to prevent the operation of an implemented course, mainly because the course opens opportunity for student-based government funding, such as the FIES [Fundo de Financiamento Estudantil].”

Earlier this year the MEC dis-accredited the institutions of University Gama Filho and City Centre (UniverCidade) in Rio de Janeiro, following a financial crisis that affected the sponsor of both institutions, the Galileo Group. Approximately 12,000 students had to be transferred to other universities.

The MEC stated that the disaccreditations were due to, “low academic quality, severe impairment of the economic and financial situation of the sponsor (Galileo Group), the lack of a viable plan to overcome the problem, and the decreasing supply of higher education.”

To verify MEC recognized institutions, visit their website for the full list.


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