Best universities in South America

Find the best universities in South America using Times Higher Education’s World University Rankings data

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September 25 2020
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Studying in South America may not be quite as popular as studying in North America, but the region boasts 22 universities in the Times Higher Education World University Rankings 2021 top 1000.

Just under half of these South American universities are in Brazil, including the University of São Paulo in first place, in the top 250 in the world. 

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Best universities in Latin America

Chile has 21 universities in the full ranking, followed by Colombia with nine institutions, Argentina with four, and Venezuela and Peru with two each. The language of instruction at these South American universities is either Portuguese or Spanish.

The South America filter of the THE World University Rankings 2021 supplements a specific Latin America ranking last published in July 2020, which includes Central American universities.

Top 5 universities in South America

1. University of São Paulo

It is unsurprising that the University of São Paulo (USP) is the best South American-university in the World University Rankings 2021; it was also named the most prestigious Latin American-university in a survey of top scholars and is second in the overall Latin America rankings.

The university is Brazil’s largest public institution of higher education and one of the largest in South America. There are currently about 83,000 students enrolled across 11 campuses, four of which are in São Paulo.

Alumni have a strong track record of becoming CEOs of the world’s largest companies. Twelve Brazilian presidents graduated from USP.

When it was founded in 1934, the university attracted famous foreign professors and created a new standard for teaching and research in the country.

More than 200 undergraduate programmes and 200 postgraduate programmes are offered across the full range of academic disciplines.

In addition to its faculties, the university operates four hospitals and 24 museums and galleries across its campuses.

=2. University of Campinas

The University of Campinas is commonly called Unicamp, and it is a public research university in the state of São Paulo, Brazil. 

It was opened in 1966, and although one of Brazil’s younger institutions has established itself as a primary medical and scientific research centre.

The campus has a unique design, with the main library, student service buildings and restaurant in a central circular plaza, and most of the academic buildings located in blocks radiating out from the centre. 

=2. University of Desarrollo

Chile’s University of Desarrollo is a relatively young university, having been established in the city of Concepción in 1990. The first degree awarded was in business administration. The following year architecture and journalism were added and a law school was opened. Over the years, the university has continued to deliver more subjects including engineering, social sciences and medicine. 

Desarrollo has a number of student football, hockey, volleyball, tennis and basketball teams that compete in higher education leagues and championships. 

=2. Diego Portales University

Diego Portales University was named after the Chilean statesmen Diego Portales and was one of the first private universities to be founded in Chile in 1982. 

It was initially created with three faculties: law, administrative sciences and psychology. The faculties of information and communications and engineering science were established a few years later in 1989. It now has a total of eight faculties. 

The library system at the university contains the law library; library of architecture, art and design; and the Central Library Nicanor Parra. Together they hold more than 180,000 volumes. 

=2. Pontifical Javeriana University

Founded in 1623, the Pontifical Javeriana University is one of the oldest universities in South America, The university has two sites in Colombia: the core university in Bogotá and another in Cali. 

The university is named after Francis Xavier, the founder of the Jesuit organisation Friends of Jesus. It is one of 28 universities on the continent that are run by the organisation. 

There are 19 faculties at the university, including medicine, engineering, theology and architecture. Class sizes are small to encourage students to debate and interact with each other. 

Two former Colombian presidents have studied at Javeriana and many diplomats attached to foreign embassies have also studied here. Notable alumni also include journalist María Cristina Caballero and businessman Luis Fernando Correa.

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Best universities in South America 2021

Click each institution to view its full World University Rankings 2021 results

 World University Rank 2021  South America Rank 2021 University country City/state
 201–250  1 University of São Paulo Brazil São Paulo
 401–500  =2 University of Campinas Brazil São Paulo
 401–500  =2 University of Desarrollo Chile Concepción
 401–500  =2 Diego Portales University Chile Santiago
 401–500  =2 Pontifical Javeriana University Colombia Bogotá
 501–600  =6 Universidad Autónoma de Chile Chile Temuco, Talca and Santiago
 501–600  =6 Universidad Peruana Cayetano Heredia Peru Lima
 501–600  =6 Pontifical Catholic University of Chile Chile Santiago
 601–800  =9 University of Antofagasta Chile Antofagasta
 601–800  =9 Federal University of Minas Gerais Brazil Minas Gerais
 601–800  =9 Federal University of Rio Grande do Sul Brazil Porto Alegre
 601–800  =9 Federal University of Santa Catarina Brazil Florianópolis
 601–800  =9 Federal University of São Paulo (UNIFESP) Brazil São Paulo
 601–800  =9 Federal University of Sergipe (UFS) Brazil São Cristóvão
 601–800  =9 Pontifical Catholic University of Rio de Janeiro (PUC-Rio) Brazil Rio de Janeiro
 801–1000  =16 University of the Andes, Colombia Colombia Bogotá
 801–1000  =16 University of Brasília Brazil Brasília
 801–1000  =16 University of Chile Chile Santiago
 801–1000  =16 Federal University of Pelotas Brazil Pelotas
 801–1000  =16 Federal University of Rio de Janeiro Brazil Rio de Janeiro
 801–1000  =16 Pontifical Catholic University of Rio Grande do Sul (PUCRS) Brazil Porto Alegre
 801–1000  =16 São Paulo State University (UNESP) Brazil São Paulo
 1001+  =23 Adolfo Ibáñez University Chile Santiago
 1001+  =23 University of the Andes, Chile Chile Santiago
 1001+  =23 University of the Andes, Venezuela Venezuela Mérida
 1001+  =23 Andrés Bello University (UNAB) Chile Santiago
 1001+  =23 University of Antioquia Colombia Medellín
 1001+  =23 Austral University of Chile Chile Valdivia
 1001+  =23 University of Bío-Bío Chile Concepción
 1001+  =23 Catholic University of the North Chile Antofagasta
 1001+  =23 University of Caxias do Sul Brazil Caxias do Sul
 1001+  =23 Ceará State University Brazil Fortaleza
 1001+  =23 University of Concepción Chile Concepción
 1001+  =23 Del Rosario University Colombia Bogotá
 1001+  =23 Federal University of ABC (UFABC) Brazil São Paulo
 1001+  =23 Federal University of Alagoas Brazil Maceió
 1001+  =23 Federal University of Bahia Brazil Sal
 1001+  =23 Federal University of Ceará (UFC) Brazil Fortaleza
 1001+  =23 Federal University of Espírito Santo Brazil Espírito Santo
 1001+  =23 Federal University of Goiás Brazil Goiás
 1001+  =23 Federal University of Health Sciences of Porto Alegre (UFCSPA) Brazil Porto Alegre
 1001+  =23 Federal University of Itajubá Brazil Itajubá
 1001+  =23 Federal University of Juiz de Fora (UFJF) Brazil Juiz de Fora
 1001+  =23 Federal University of Lavras Brazil Minas Gerais
 1001+  =23 Federal University of Maranhão (UFMA) Brazil Maranhão
 1001+  =23 Federal University of Mato Grosso do Sul Brazil Campo Grande
 1001+  =23 Federal University of Ouro Preto Brazil Ouro Preto
 1001+  =23 Federal University of Pará Brazil Belém
 1001+  =23 Federal University of Paraí­ba (UFPB) Brazil João Pessoa
 1001+  =23 Federal University of Paraná (UFPR) Brazil Paraná
 1001+  =23 Federal University of Pernambuco Brazil Recife
 1001+  =23 Federal University of Piauí Brazil Teresina
 1001+  =23 Federal University of Rio Grande do Norte (UFRN) Brazil Natal
 1001+  =23 Federal Rural University of the Semi-Arid Region Brazil Mossoro
 1001+  =23 Federal University of Santa Maria Brazil Santa Maria
 1001+  =23 Federal University of São Carlos Brazil São Carlos
 1001+  =23 Federal University of Technology – Paraná Brazil Paraná
 1001+  =23 Federal University of Uberlândia Brazil Uberlândia
 1001+  =23 Federal University of Viçosa Brazil Viçosa
 1001+  =23 Federico Santa María Technical University Chile Valparaiso
 1001+  =23 Fluminense Federal University Brazil Rio de Janeiro
 1001+  =23 University of Fortaleza (UNIFOR) Brazil Fortaleza
 1001+  =23 University of La Frontera Chile Temuco
 1001+  =23 Industrial University of Santander (UIS) Colombia Santander
 1001+  =23 Londrina State University Brazil Londrina
 1001+  =23 Universidad Nacional del Litoral Argentina Santa Fe
 1001+  =23 National University of Colombia Colombia Bogotá
 1001+  =23 National University of Córdoba Argentina Córdoba
 1001+  =23 National University of Cuyo Argentina Mendoza
 1001+  =23 National University of San Martín Argentina Buenos Aires
 1001+  =23 University of the North, Colombia Colombia Barranquilla
 1001+  =23 Pontifical Bolivarian University (UPB) – Medellín Colombia Medellín
 1001+  =23 Pontifical Catholic University of Minas Gerais Brazil Minas Gerais
 1001+  =23 Pontifical Catholic University of Paraná Brazil Paraná
 1001+  =23 Pontifical Catholic University of Peru Peru Lima
 1001+  =23 Pontifical Catholic University of Valparaíso Chile Valparaiso
 1001+  =23 Rio de Janeiro State University (UERJ) Brazil Rio de Janeiro
 1001+  =23 University of La Sabana Colombia Chia
 1001+  =23 San Sebastián University Chile Santiago
 1001+  =23 Santa Catarina State University Brazil Florianópolis
 1001+  =23 University of Santiago, Chile (USACH) Chile Santiago
 1001+  =23 Simón Bolívar University Venezuela Caracas
 1001+  =23 State University of Maringá Brazil Maringá
 1001+  =23 State University of Ponta Grossa Brazil Paraná
 1001+  =23 State University of Santa Cruz Brazil Bahia
 1001+  =23 University of Talca Chile Talca
 1001+  =23 University of Tarapacá Chile Arica
 1001+  =23 Unisinos University Brazil São Leopoldo 
 1001+  =23 University of Valparaíso Chile Valparaiso
 1001+  =23 Western Paraná State University (Unioeste) Brazil Paraná

Read more: Best universities in the world 

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