How COVID-19 Has Exacerbated Inequality in Higher Education in Brazil


  • Francisco Ricardo Miranda Pinto Universidade de Fortaleza (UNIFOR); Centro Universitário INTA - UNINTA; Universidade Estadual Vale do Acaraú (UVA); Faculdade Alencarina de Sobral (FAL)



Drawing on educational census data and a review of news articles and higher education policies in Brazil, this article examines the impact of COVID-19 on the access and retention of the low-income Brazilian population in higher education. Guided by the question, “What is the impact of COVID-19 on the most vulnerable population in Brazil in terms of access to, and retention in higher education?”, the paper is structured in two sections: the first offers a short historical overview of Brazilian higher education; the second examines the impact of the pandemic on student retention in higher education, looking at factors such as social isolation, job and income precarity, use of Information and Communication Technologies (ICT), internet access, and technological resources.

I argue that distance education offered by private higher education institutions benefits the privileged students and that the effects of the pandemic are detrimental to the socially disadvantaged students since those who are in public universities do not always have access to technology, and those who study in private universities feel the impact of not being able to pay tuition fees, besides the loss of several jobs in different sectors. In conclusion, I recommend policy initiatives to improve access to higher education.