Blacks in colleges and universities almost triples in Brazil in 10 years; number of students in higher education increases but majority is still white and rich

negros da ufrgs se rec3banem para foto coletiva no dia da conscic3aancia negra
negros da ufrgs se rec3banem para foto coletiva no dia da conscic3aancia negra
Negros da UFRGS se reúnem para foto coletiva no Dia da Consciência Negra
Black students at UFRGS pose for photo on Day of Black Consciousness

Note from BW of Brazil: When you see reports such as this one it just reminds you of just how invisible black students really were on college and university campuses across Brazil just a few decades ago. I mean, really think about this for a moment. Since the first years of the previous decade, hundreds of thousands of pretos and pardos (literally, black and brown, collectively, black people) have attained the opportunity to frequent institutions of higher learning and gain access to information that has changed the course of their lives forever. Added to the fact that this accomplishment has helped numerous black students become the first in their families to attain a college degree, just as important is the fact that in getting there, they have learned just how unequal Brazilian society really is. Because just as their mere presence has contributed to seeing non-white Brazilians entering posts and positions in the labor force in numbers that were simply impossible just as recently as 1998, they have also discovered many Brazilians still don’t appreciate seeing them in places where it is believed they don’t belong (see note one). 

Beyond the benefits of a college education and the opportunity for better jobs, many a student, exposed to this real elite circle, have “tornar-se negro”, or ‘become black’, along the way after the experience of being in places that are at times quite hostile to their very existence, often times destroying their belief in the mythical Brazilian ‘racial democracy’. But even with unprecedented strides in diversifying college campuses, the fact is that this area, like so many others in Brazil, they are still vastly unequal, statistically speaking, thus being perfectly suited for the old adage, “we’ve come a long way, but still we got a long way to go!”

Negros quase triplicam no ensino superior no Brasil em 10 anos (4)
Number of blacks in higher education almost triples in Brazil in 10 years

Blacks in higher education almost triples in Brazil in 10 years

Number of students in higher education increases; majority is still white and rich

Courtesy of CEERT

Young people aged 18 to 24 who attend higher education in Brazil accounted for 58.5% of the total number of students in this age group in 2014. The percentage is 25 percentage points higher than that of ten years before. The data were released by the Brazilian Institute of Geography and Statistics (IBGE) and show that, in 2004, this number was 32.9%.

Estudantes negros ocupam reitoria da UFRGS contra distorções nas cotas
Students at UFRGS (Federal University of Rio Grande do Sul)

The IBGE survey data were calculated based on the number of students, not the total number of young people – which would also include those who do not study. Although the IBGE highlights the trend of democratization of higher education in the last ten years, data indicate that white students and the richest part of the population are still the majority in universities in the country.

According to the survey, in 2004, 54.5% of public higher education students belonged to the richest 20% of the Brazilian population – with an average income per person of the residence  of R$ 2,900. Ten years later, this group occupied 36.4% of the vacancies in public universities.

Negros quase triplicam no ensino superior no Brasil em 10 anos (3)
Majority of college and university students is still white and rich

Already the proportion of students belonging to the poorest fifth of the population, with average per capita income of R$ 192, was 1.2% in 2004 and reached 7.6% of students of public colleges in 2014.

“In addition to the favorable context for the expansion of higher education, provided by the increase in the educational level of the population and by the improvements in the economic conditions of the families that liberate young people to continue studying, instead of dedicating themselves exclusively to work, democratization of access to higher education was stimulated by a series of public policies,” the survey said.

In 2004, 16.7% of estudantes pretos e pardos (black and brown students) aged 18-24 attended institutions of higher education, according to the survey, which grew to 45.5% in 2014. Despite the increase, blacks didn’t reach the percentage of white students in 2004: 47.2%. For this group, the increase observed in the last ten years meant that 71.4% of white students aged 18 to 24 were in the university.

Negros quase triplicam no ensino superior no Brasil em 10 anos (2)

The percentage of young students attending institutions of higher education was already higher among women in 2004, and the distance increased with a faster growth, which increased to 63.3% in 2014. For men, the percentage reached 53.2%.

The increase in the percentage of students attending institutions of higher learning happened in all Brazilian regions, which continue to present unequal levels. In the South, the proportion rose from 50.5% to 72.2% in the period surveyed, while in the North the percentage rose from 17.6% to 40.2%. The highest growth, of 29.1 percentage points, was verified in the Northeast, where the proportion increased from 16.4% to 45.5%.

Young people who only go to school

The IBGE also compared data on the dedication of young people to the study. The number of young Brazilians between the ages of 15 and 29 who study and work at the same time fell during the decade surveyed. In 2004, 22.6% of people in this age group were engaged in both activities, a proportion that reached 17.3% in 2014.

Comunidade acadêmica posou em foto coletiva para marcar a data na reitoria da universidade

As the group of young people who do not study or work remained practically stable, accounting for about a fifth of the population aged 15 to 29 years, the IBGE highlighted the growth in the number of people dedicated exclusively to their studies, which rose from 59.3% to 67%.

“It’s relevant and very good information. When young people can dedicate themselves more fully to their studies, they are expected to have better income and understanding,” says IBGE researcher Cintia Simões.

In the ten years surveyed, the number of people between the ages of 20 and 22 who finished high school or higher education levels also grew. In the general population, this number increased from 45.5% to 60.8%, being more expressive among blacks than whites.

Among pretos e pardos (blacks and browns), the percentage of the population in this age group that finished high school reached 52.6%, a lower percentage than was already observed for whites in 2004 (57.9%). By 2014, 71.7% of whites in this age group had finished high school.

Source: CEERT


  1. Over the years, there have been a number of open manifestations against the presence of black students in colleges and universities, both targeting individuals and black students as a whole. For just a few examples, see the following articles:

Told she’ll only be a maid, or will need to use her “black sexuality” to move up in life, quota student fires back on why Brazil owes its black citizens

“I found this slave in the smoking area! Whoever the owner is let me know!”: Student at FGV College suspended for racist comment/photo of black student

“A little nigger girl? Not here!” Scholarship student target of racist comment at event of FGV, one of Brazil’s top-ranking universities

“The place of (the) black monkey is in the slave quarters”: Swastika and racist graffiti found written in São Paulo university

Racist grafitti and Neo-Nazis in Brazil: The evidence that can’t be denied

“This is not a slave house! Get blacks out of University of Campinas!”: More racist graffiti demonstrates discomfort with blacks being “out of their place”

“Little blacks like you we rape and then burn not to pollute the soil”: University student receives racist threats in social network

About Marques Travae 3747 Articles
Marques Travae. For more on the creator and editor of BLACK WOMEN OF BRAZIL, see the interview here.

1 Comment

  1. Very good story!! with the increase of Afro-Brazilians in higher education things should looking good (hopefully).Let’s keep it up!!

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