Between 2011 and 2021, the number of entrants in higher undergraduate courses, in the modality of distance education (EaD), increased by 474%. In the same period, the number of entrants in face-to-face courses decreased by 23.4%. If in 2011, students entering EaD corresponded to 18.4% of the total, in 2021 this percentage reached 62.8%. The data, which reflect the expansion of distance learning in Brazil, are part of the results of the 2021 Higher Education Census, released by the National Institute of Educational Studies and Research Anísio Teixeira (INEP) and the Ministry of Education (MEC), at a press conference held on recently.
The historical series of the research also indicates that the two ends of the horseshoe (face-to-face and distance education) tend to move away more and more. Between 2020 and 2021, the increase in entrants in higher education courses was caused exclusively by the offer of distance education in the private network. In this period, the modality had an increase of 23.3% (24.2% in private institutions), while entry into face-to-face graduations reduced by 16.5%. The comparison confirms the growth trend of distance learning over time. In 2019, for the first time in history, the number of entrants in distance education exceeded that of students who began face-to-face graduation, in the case of private institutions. In this educational network, 70.5% of students, in 2021, entered through remote courses.
The 2021 census recorded 2,574 higher education institutions. Of these, 87.68% (2.261) were private and 12.2% (313) were public. In this context, the private network offered 96.4% of the vacancies. The public network, on the other hand, was responsible for 3.6% of the offers. The number of enrollments also followed the growth trend of recent years and reached more than 8.9 million. Private institutions concentrated the majority of those enrolled: 76.9%. The public ones registered 23.1% of them — between 2011 and 2021, the percentage of students enrolled in higher education increased by 32.8%, which corresponds to an average of 2.9% per year.
When it comes to the relationship between enrollment and teaching modality, the expansion of distance education was, once again, evidenced. In 2021, there were more than 3.7 million enrolled in distance courses. The number represents 41.4% of the total. In the historical series highlighted by the survey (2011 to 2021), the percentage of enrolled in distance education increased by 274.3%, while, in the face-to-face, there was a drop of 8.3%. For the president of INEP, Carlos Eduardo Moreno Sampaio, the results of the census point, in a concrete way, in which direction Brazilian higher education is heading and demand reflections on educational models and policies.
The objective of statistical research is to offer detailed information about the situation and trends of Brazilian higher education, as well as to guide the public policies of the sector. After disclosure, the information starts to appear as official data of the educational level. In addition to subsidizing the formulation, monitoring, and evaluation of public policies of higher education, the census contributes to the calculation of quality indicators, such as the Preliminary Course Concept (CPC) and the General Index of Evaluated Courses of the Institution (IGC). INEP’s performance focuses on the calculation, production, and treatment of statistics.