It is almost completely located in Porto Alegre, with four campuses (Campus Centro, Campus Saúde, Campus Olímpico and Campus do Vale), some isolated buildings (e.g. the Business School and the Institute of Arts) and some isolated units in other cities. UFRGS is among the best Brazilian universities, and has one of the greatest numbers of scientific publications. UFRGS has over 27,000 undergraduate students and over 9,300 graduate students. The university has more than 2,500 professors. As a public federal institution, the students do not have to pay tuition fees to enroll in the courses offered by the university. To be admitted to one of the courses offered by UFRGS, a candidate must be approved in a yearly competitive exam, called the vestibular.
The institute also has a profound political history. Between 1964 and 1969, during the worst years of the military dictatorship, 33 professors were eliminated, as well as a good number of students. The experience echoes a tradition of social commitment and combativeness. The institute has since been active not only in forming new generations of students, but also in the production of knowledge through high-quality research and consultancies. Today, many of the high-ranking officials in government as well as the majority of the history, philosophy and social sciences teachers in smaller universities throughout the state were educated in the institution. The climate of intellectual debate and analysis of public issues has also been important in training students (often with scholarships and/or student apprenticeships) to work for non-governmental and governmental organisations which contribute to the critical reflection and planning of development programs. Among the graduates of UFRGS, there are three Brazilian presidents: Getúlio Vargas, João Goulart and Dilma Rousseff.