Best universities in Latin America

Explore the best universities in Latin America from data collected by Times Higher Education's World University Rankings 

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July 7 2020
Best universities in Latin America


If you are looking to study at one of the best universities in Latin America, heading to Brazil might be your best bet, according to the results of the 2020 Times Higher Education Latin America University Rankings. The country has an impressive 61 universities in the ranking of approximately 166 universities.

Despite Brazil being the most represented country in the ranking, the top university is the Pontifical Catholic University of Chile. The university retains its first place from last year.  Coming in at number two is the University of São Paulo in Brazil. 

Chile is another good choice for students looking to study in Latin America, with 30 universities in the ranking. Other countries with a strong presence include Colombia (23 universities) and Mexico (22).  

The rest of the top five includes the University of Campinas (ranked third) and the Monterrey Institute of Technology in fourth place, both in Brazil. In joint fifth position are the Federal University of Minas Gerais and the Federal University of São Paulo (UNIFESP)

The Latin America University Rankings use the same methodology as the World University Rankings but some of the indicators have been recalibrated to reflect the profile of higher education in Latin America. The full methodology can be found here.

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1. Pontifical Catholic University of Chile, Chile

The Pontifical Catholic University of Chile is one of six private Catholic universities in the Chilean university system and one of two pontifical universities in the country.

The university originally taught law, mathematics, legal sciences and physical sciences. However, the faculty of theology was established in 1935 and since then the course catalogue has expanded to include subjects such as philosophy, commerce and technology.

Four of the university’s campuses are located in Santiago, Chile’s capital. Santiago is the cultural, political and financial centre of Chile, home to the headquarters of many multinational companies.

The fifth campus is in Villarrica next to the city’s lake.

2. University of São Paulo, Brazil 

The University of São Paulo is the oldest and largest university in Brazil. Four of the 11 campuses are in the city of São Paulo, while the remaining campuses are in the cities of Bauru, Lorena, Piracicaba, Pirassununga, Ribeirão Preto and two in São Carlos.

The university offers many recreational activities to students, including 245 museums and galleries, two theatres, a cinema, a TV channel and an orchestra.

There are also five hospitals affiliated with the institution. The University of São Paulo Medical School Public Hospital is a major training hospital for the university’s School of Medicine. 

3. University of Campinas, Brazil 

The University of Campinas, or Unicamp, is located in the city of Campinas in the São Paulo region of Brazil. 

Although the university is one of Brazil’s youngest (it opened in 1966), it has established itself as a primary medical and scientific research centre. The institution is responsible for about 15 per cent of the research conducted in Brazil.

International undergraduate students will need to sit an exam before acceptance. The exam requires prospective students to have a good grasp of Portuguese.

Both Brazilian and international students do not pay tuition fees, as is the case in all state-run universities in the country.

The university offers 70 undergraduate programmes and 153 postgraduate programmes across four main areas: exact sciences, human sciences, biological sciences and technologies.

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4. Monterrey Institute of Technology, Mexico

The Monterrey Institute of Technology is a private university system founded in 1943 in Monterrey, Mexico. 

It offers undergraduate, master’s and PhD programmes across a number of disciplines, including engineering, management, social sciences, arts, science and medicines. There are 31 campuses across 25 cities in Mexico. 

The university encourages students to study abroad for a period of time. Students at the university represent more than 70 nationalities.

=5. Federal University of Minas Gerais, Brazil

Federal University of Minas Gerais is a federal university located in Belo Horizonte, state of Minas Gerais, Brazil. It is one of the largest universities in Brazil and offers 75 undergraduate degrees, 57 PhD programmes, 66 MSc programs, 79 post-baccalaureate programmes and 41 medical residency programmes.

The university teaches across a number of different subjects including music, information science, nursing and engineering, among others. 

The university also has campuses in Tiradentes and Montes Claros. Most courses, however, are taught at the main campus, located in the Pampulha neighbourhood of Belo Horizonte. 

=5. Federal University of São Paulo (UNIFESP), Brazil

The Federal University of São Paulo (UNIFESP) is a public university in Brazil. 

It started off as a health science specialist university where the mission was to develop students into health professionals and contribute to medical research. It has since expanded its teaching provision to more than 50 courses including philosophy, history and economics.

São Paulo Hospital is part of the university. Graduate students gain work experience in this busy, comprehensive medical institution. The hospital also provides health services for underprivileged people.

The 50 top universities in Latin America 2020

Latin America 2020 Rank Latin America 2019 Rank
World University Rank 2020
1 1 Pontifical Catholic University of Chile Chile 501–600
2 2 University of São Paulo Brazil 251–300
3 3 University of Campinas Brazil 501–600
4 5 Monterrey Institute of Technology Mexico 601–800
5 8 Federal University of Minas Gerais Brazil 601–800
5 6 Federal University of São Paulo (UNIFESP) Brazil 601–800
7 4 Pontifical Catholic University of Rio de Janeiro (PUC-Rio) Brazil 601–800
8 7 University of Chile Chile 801–1000
9 12 Federal University of Santa Catarina Brazil 601–800
10 10 São Paulo State University (UNESP) Brazil 801–1000
11 9 University of the Andes, Colombia Colombia 601–800
12 13 Federal University of Rio de Janeiro Brazil 801–1000
13 11

Federal University of Rio Grande do Sul

Brazil 601–800
14 15 University of Brasília Brazil 801–1000
15 16 Federal University of São Carlos Brazil 1001+
16 22 National University of Colombia Colombia 1001+
17 14 National Autonomous University of Mexico Mexico 601–800
18 32 The University of the West Indies Jamaica 501–600
19 17 Federal University of Viçosa Brazil 1001+
20 20 Pontifical Catholic University of Rio Grande do Sul (PUCRS) Brazil 801–1000
21 18 Metropolitan Autonomous University Mexico 601–800
22 26 Federal University of Paraná (UFPR) Brazil 1001+
23 23 Pontifical Catholic University of Valparaíso Chile 1001+
24 34 Federal University of Lavras Brazil 1001+
25 30 Rio de Janeiro State University (UERJ) Brazil 1001+
26 25 Universidad Peruana Cayetano Heredia Peru 501–600
27 24 University of Santiago, Chile (USACH) Chile 1001+
28 31 Federal University of Bahia Brazil 1001+
29 28 Pontifical Javeriana University Colombia 401–500
30 33 Fluminense Federal University Brazil 1001+
31 20 Pontifical Catholic University of Peru Peru 801–1000
32 37 University of Costa Rica Costa Rica 601–800
33 29 Federal University of Pernambuco Brazil 1001+
34 41 Federal University of ABC (UFABC) Brazil 1001+
35 19 Federal University of Ceará (UFC) Brazil 1001+
36 27 Austral University Argentina NR
37 38 National University of San Martín Argentina 1001+
38 61–70 Unisinos University Brazil 1001+
39 51–60 Federal University of Rio Grande do Norte (UFRN) Brazil 1001+
40 51–60 Federal University of Pelotas Brazil 801–1000
41 35 National University of Córdoba Argentina 1001+
42 40 Federal University of Goiás Brazil 1001+
43 47 University of the Andes, Chile Chile 1001+
44 48 University of Havana Cuba 1001+
45 36 University of Antioquia Colombia 1001+
46 42 University of La Frontera Chile 801–1000
47 45 University of Concepción Chile 1001+
47 44 Pontifical Catholic University of Paraná Brazil 1001+
49 51–60 Austral University of Chile Chile 1001+
50 39 Londrina State University Brazil 1001+

Explore the full searchable table of the Latin America University Rankings 2020

Read more: Best universities in the world

Editor’s note: July 2020

After the release of the Latin America University Rankings 2020 it was discovered that the research and teaching pillar scores have been incorrectly displayed in the final published tables since 2016. The scores incorrectly displayed in these pillars are those based on the World University Rankings methodology and not the reweighted Latin America University Rankings methodology used to compile the rankings results.

This does not affect the data used to compile the rankings or universities’ overall scores or ranking positions.

The Latin America University Rankings tables have now been updated to display the correct scores for teaching and research.

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