CAPES and Political Science in Brazil

By the end of 2012, Brazilian graduate education comprises 1,717 doctoral, 2,894 Academic Master's, and 395 Professional Master's programs. We see a basically continuous upward line regarding the number of doctoral, Master's, and Professional Master's programs. There are no breaks or shifts in this pattern that may be associated to political or institutional changes. We see no pattern breaks after 1985, when the military regime gave way to civilian governments. Nor can the seven administrations held by five different Presidents of the Republic be told apart through substantial changes along the expansion of the Brazilian graduate education system. Despite the changes to political regimes or the substitution of governments taking place in the period, the number of graduate programs has constantly increased, indicating that graduate education has taken the shape of a State policy.

The jaboticaba or the singular element in the Brazilian case is that several procedures that monitor and maintain the graduate education system are carried out by a single agency, CAPES (Coordenação para o Aperfeiçoamento de Pessoal de Nível Superior/Coordination for the Advancement of Graduate Education). CAPES is responsible for (1) accrediting the Institutions so they may legally grant Master's and doctoral degrees; (2) periodically evaluating their performance, compliance with minimum quality requirements, and achievement of international excellence standards, and (3) funding a significant portion of the system by granting scholarships and financing the accredited graduate programs.

The purpose of the paper “When institutions matter: CAPES and Political Science in Brazil1 is to analyze the institutional evaluation processes applied to Brazilian graduate programs, which processes are carried out by CAPES  and their impact on the development of Political Science in Brazil. To do that, the text is divided into four parts: the first section presents CAPES' characteristics and evolution in the past 60 years. The second part describes the academic evaluation procedures graduate programs are submitted to by CAPES for them to enter or remain in the system. Next, we analyze the influence of evaluation rules and criteria set by CAPES on the development of Political Science in Brazil. Finally, the last section examines the relationships between the institutional evaluation results, in the form of scores assigned to graduate institutions, and CAPES' funding patterns in order to determine to what extent a relationship between performance and grants can be isolated.

The Brazilian graduate education system operates based on the combination of accreditation, evaluation, and funding activities carried out by a federal agency, CAPES  created in 1951 as a “National Campaign for the Advancement of Graduate Education,” included in a development-oriented agenda pursued during the second administration of Getúlio Vargas (1950-54). Since 1976, CAPES has periodically carried out institutional evaluations of the graduate programs operating in the country and assigning them scores based on their faculty's and candidates' scientific production, the training of Masters and Doctors at each Institution, their internationalization, and other assessment criteria.

Parallel to the expansion of Brazilian political science, we find a significant consolidation in academic consistency rates in the last two triennials, which proves that growth and quality are not mutually exclusive. The position of the Political Science and International Relations areas in the citation ranking by SCImago Journal & Country Ranking rose from 38th in 2004 to 16th in the world in 2012. Until 2004, they ranked behind Argentina, Chile and Mexico in terms of publications indexed in Latin America. Since 2008, Brazil has secured a leadership position in Latin American PS & IR, considering SCImago data on documents and citations2.

The influence this institutional evaluation process carried out by CAPES has had on the development of Brazilian Political Science can be seen especially in the increase in scientific production, the orientation and concentration of such production towards more academically prestigious periodicals and journals, and the rising positions achieved by Brazilian PS & IR in the disciplines' international rankings. At the same time, a comparison between the performance indicators for each institution offering Political Science Master's and doctoral programs in Brazil and the scores obtained in this academic evaluation shows a strong statistical correlation that reveals the consistency achieved by this institutional assessment.

Finally, the comparison between the scores obtained in CAPES's evaluation and the funds granted to the various graduate programs reveals that, although it is not the only or linear fund allocation criterion (priority to technological or biological areas and fostering the expansion of graduate education in less developed regions also influence the transfer of funds), we can find a significant association between institutional performance and the offer of funds, especially in the form of research grants.

Indeed, at least when it comes to Brazilian graduate education, institutions do matter, or at least CAPES matters for the university system's makeup at this level. 


1 MARENCO, André . When Institutions Matter: CAPES and Political Science in Brazil. Revista de Ciencia Política, Santiago, v. 35, p. 33-46, 2015.

2 See

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