Portuguese MPs rejected, on Thursday evening (8), two bills that would reduce the price of tuition fees charged to foreign students in the country. The change would significantly reduce the amount paid by thousands of Brazilians, who make up almost 40% of the approximately 56,000 international students in Portuguese higher education.
In Portugal, unlike Brazil, public universities are not free. However, the total cost of the courses is heavily subsidized by the government. There is a maximum price list for Portuguese and European citizens.
Under current law, there are no limits to the amounts charged to students outside the European Union, and institutions are free to set course prices.
At the University of Coimbra, a full-time undergraduate course costs 697 euros (R $ 4,610) per year for a Portuguese. For a Brazilian, the same training costs 7 thousand euros (about R $ 46.2 thousand) per year.
The equalization of tuition fees is an old demand of Brazilian student associations in Portugal, which has increased social and political mobilization after the additional hardship caused by the pandemic.
They promise to keep pushing for better conditions for foreign students.
The possibility of charging higher values to students from outside the European Union, in force since 2014, has prompted many Portuguese universities to seek to attract a foreign audience, which has become an important source of income.
The process has been simplified so much that currently 50 Portuguese institutions accept Brazilian ENEM as a form of entry.
The text of one of the projects presented, proposed by the Bloco de Esquerda (party with the third largest seat in the Assembly of the Republic), states that current legislation has allowed foreigners to be treated as a kind of commodity by universities.
“At the same time that they are asked to pay exorbitant sums, they are denied access to certain mechanisms of social action. It is necessary to face the participation of international citizens in Portuguese higher education with a humanist and non-commercial vision ”, indicates the text.
To pay tuition fees equivalent to Portuguese, many Brazilian students resorted to equal rights status, provided for in a bilateral agreement between the governments of Brazil and Portugal in April 2000.
Under the treaty, Brazilians residing legally in Portugal (and Portuguese in Brazil) enjoy the same civil rights as nationals, including vacancies in public tenders, access to public health and to the public. ‘education.
The increased interest of Brazilians in Portuguese higher education ended up reviving, from 2015, the interest in obtaining the status, which was declining.
In 2019, 7,320 equal rights statuses were granted, an increase of 118.2% compared to 3,354 the previous year. In 2015, there were 830.
Several universities, however, are resisting the maneuver, demanding that in order to be eligible to pay tuition fees as Portuguese, Brazilian students must go through the selection process for domestic students: more competitive and needing to pass local national examination.