Higher Education in the United States and Brazil: How the Two Systems Origins Shaped Their Further Development

Arabela Campos Oliven
2014 Creative Education  
This article draws a parallel between higher education in the United States and Brazil placing emphasis on its different origins. The college tradition in the United States began with Harvard in the seventeenth century soon after the pioneers settled in the new land. These institutions were private, closer to their Board of Trustees than to the British Crown, and had a deeply religious character. Since one of their objectives was to train religious leaders, character formation was very valued.
more » ... n was very valued. Located far from city centers, colleges used to operate as almost a total institution. The first Brazilian higher education institutions were created in the early nineteenth century when the Portuguese Royal family left Lisbon for its colony, Brazil. Schools of Medicine, Law, Pharmacy, etc. were called Faculdades. Highly elitist they were located in large cities. They followed the model of Napoleonic Great French Schools, which were secular institutions aimed at training professionals. United States and Brazil have quite different higher education systems, but both still sustain, to a large extent, their respective marks of origin and pay tribute to them. Keywords History of Higher Education, Brazil, USA, Colleges, Faculdades A. C. Oliven 1663 Commenting on the more recent American influence in Brazilian system of higher education since the 1968 University Reform and the development of the graduate system that followed it, references will be made to the relationship between undergraduate and graduate studies in both countries. Higher Education in the United States The Founding Institution: The American College The first higher education institution in America's English colonies was Harvard College, founded in 1636 by a Calvinist group, not too long after its arrival in the New World. During the colonial period, another seven colleges of different denominations were established. England was the inspiration for the British colonies in the New World. In the metropolis the higher education system was made up of a high number of colleges affiliated with one of two traditional universities, which were the only institutions entitled to grant academic degrees: Oxford and Cambridge. This model was too complex for the colonies' limited socioeconomic realities. On the one hand the colonial colleges incorporated multiple aspects of the British university tradition as best as they could, on the other they were also largely independent from the British Crown. Many of those who left England at that time were fleeing religious persecution. The settlers belonged to different Protestant denominations, and the founders of colonial colleges-mostly non-conformists-dreaded England's interference in the religious orientation of higher education institutions. Colonial colleges trained mostly pastors and religious leaders for the new communities. This required that character formation were put first, through reading and discussing the Bible, studying the classics, and a rigid discipline that included regular assistance to religious services and close contact between students and professors, where the latter were considered models of conduct. These higher education institutions functioned as a boarding school. The professors, who also lived in the colleges, were in charge of training the young students by taking up the parental role and providing an example to be followed. This configuration was called in loco parentis (Rudolph, 1990) . The founders of these colleges were more loyal to local sponsors than to the British Crown. This gave origin to a core element of the colleges' power structure: the Board of Trustees. This was a non-resident group open to laymen who governed the institution, established its guidelines, and chose its president, who was in charge of implementing the policies devised by the founders and the council. The faculty was a minor stakeholder in this power structure; the professors did not hold the knowledge, the organization or the tradition of medieval masters, and relied on those who sponsored them. Due to the colleges' limited dimension, power struggles were not so significant. In the colonial period, the colleges public or private character was often conflated. Each colony had a fairly homogeneous population, and religious affiliation permeated almost all social relations. Upon U.S. independence, some Republican leaders came to see public-and therefore secular-education as a goal. A watershed in the struggle between public and private control, and between centralization and diversification, was the case of Dartmouth College (Graham, 1990) . The British Crown had authorized the college's foundation, but at a moment when the U.S. turned independent, a power struggle in the college followed the death of its first president and the appointment of his son as successor. The Board of Trustees and local politicians from New Hampshire (state where the college is located) thus vied for control of the institution's future. In 1816, the state government sought to enact a law creating the University of Dartmouth, to be based on the original college. This would require the consent of its Board of Trustees, which was obtained through subterfuge: the number of trustees was increased, thus conforming a council favorable to the creation of the new university. Since the original council refused to obey the new law, the same institution-Dartmouth College and Dartmouth University-remained with two administrative bodies. This led the original council to sue the college's treasurer when he refused to comply.
doi:10.4236/ce.2014.518184 fatcat:jgrdtvvzbreunkjkfbzk3gt6uu