Best universities in South America 2017

Find the best universities in South America using Times Higher Education’s World University Rankings data
September 21 2016

Studying in South America may not be quite as popular as studying in North America, but the region can boast 43 universities in the Times Higher Education World University Rankings 2016-17.

Just under two-thirds of these South American universities are in Brazil, including the University of São Paulo in first place, in the top 300 in the world.

Resources: Latin America and South America

- See the Latin America ranking of 50 universities
- Most prestigious universities in Latin America
- Read more about Latin America’s universities

Chile has 10 universities in the ranking, followed by Colombia with three institutions, Venezuela with two and Argentina with one. The language of instruction at these South American universities is either Portuguese or Spanish.

The South America filter of the THE World University Rankings 2015-16 supplements a specific Latin America ranking last published in July 2016, which includes Central American universities.

Resources: Choosing a university

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Top 4 universities in South America

1. University of São Paulo

It is unsurprising that the University of São Paulo (USP) secured the top position as the best South American-university in the World University Rankings; it was also named the most prestigious Latin American-university in a survey of top scholars and is in first position 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 90,000 students enrolled across 11 campuses, four of which are in São Paulo.

Alumni of the university 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 by the university across the full range of academic disciplines.

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

2=. Federico Santa María Technical University

Federico Santa María Technical University – often known simply as Santa Maria University – is the top Chilean university in the world.

It is based in Valparaíso but has campuses around the country and an international campus in Ecuador.

The university was the first in the country to award an engineering doctorate, in 1962, and to this day is known as one of the most prestigious universities in Latin America.

University admission is extremely selective; only the top 10 per cent of students in the country have high enough entry grades.

Degrees are awarded for various subdisciplines within engineering, across 17 different academic departments, including metallurgical engineering and computer science.

Each year, finalists graduate on the same day to commemorate the death of the founder, Federico Santa María Carrera.

2=. Pontifical Catholic University of Chile

In joint third place, the Pontifical-Catholic University-of Chile (PUC) is one of six Catholic universities in the country, and one of the oldest higher education institutes.

The university has five campuses in total, one outside Santiago in Villarrica.

Founded to offer training in law, business and accounting, the university has expanded since the 19th century to establish 18 faculties, a clinical hospital, and various research centres.

Many notable figures from arts, science, religion and politics attended the university, including two presidents of Chile.

In particular, the university is highly regarded for mathematics and economics. Since 2011, PUC has collaborated with the University of Notre Dame in the United States to offer a dual graduate degree in civil engineering and geological sciences.

2=. State University of Campinas

Like other public universities in Brazil, State University of Campinas (Unicamp) charges no tuition fees for undergraduate or postgraduate programmes.

Almost half the students are postgraduates, reflecting the strong institutional focus on world-leading research. The university was designed from the outset as a research centre, unlike other Brazilian universities, which developed by consolidating separate schools and institutes.

About 15 per cent of the country’s research is affiliated with Unicamp.

The flagship campus is outside the centre of Campinas, occupying 860 acres in a valley. The campus was designed with academic buildings in concentric circles around a central plaza.

Hospital das Clinicas, run by the School of Medical Sciences, serves half a million people every year.

The 70 undergraduate programmes on offer cover all scientific disciplines, and each enrols between 30 and 100 students each year. There are more than 150 postgraduate programmes.

Most students live near campus or in Campinas city, as the university does not offer much campus housing.

Best universities in South America 2017

Click each institution to view its full World University Rankings 2016-2017 results

South America Rank World University Rank 2017 University Country
1 251-300 University of São Paulo Brazil
=2 401-500 Federico Santa María Technical University Chile
=2 401-500 Pontifical Catholic University of Chile Chile
=2 401-500 State University of Campinas Brazil
=5 501-600 Pontifical Xavierian University Colombia
=5 501-600 University of Chile Chile
=5 501-600 University of the Andes Colombia
=8 601-800 Austral University of Chile Chile
=8 601-800 Diego Portales University Chile
=8 601-800 Federal University of ABC (UFABC) Brazil
=8 601-800 Federal University of Minas Gerais Brazil
=8 601-800 Federal University of Paraná (UFPR) Brazil
=8 601-800 Federal University of Rio de Janeiro Brazil
=8 601-800 Federal University of Rio Grande do Sul Brazil
=8 601-800 Federal University of Santa Catarina Brazil
=8 601-800 Federal University of São Paulo (UNIFESP) Brazil
=8 601-800 Pontifical Catholic University of Rio de Janeiro (PUC-Rio) Brazil
=8 601-800 Pontifical Catholic University of Rio Grande do Sul (PUCRS) Brazil
=8 601-800 São Paulo State University (UNESP) Brazil
=8 601-800 University of Antioquia Colombia
=8 601-800 University of Concepción Chile
=8 601-800 University of La Frontera Chile
=23 801+ Federal University of Bahia Brazil
=23 801+ Federal University of Ceará (UFC) Brazil
=23 801+ Federal University of Goiás Brazil
=23 801+ Federal University of Ouro Preto Brazil
=23 801+ Federal University of Pernambuco Brazil
=23 801+ Federal University of Rio Rio Grande do Norte (UFRN) Brazil
=23 801+ Federal University of Santa Maria Brazil
=23 801+ Federal University of São Carlos Brazil
=23 801+ Federal University of Viçosa Brazil
=23 801+ Federal University of Lavras Brazil
=23 801+ Fluminense Federal University Brazil
=23 801+ Londrina State University Brazil
=23 801+ National University of the South Argentina
=23 801+ Pontifical Catholic University of Paraná Brazil
=23 801+ Pontifical Catholic University of Valparaíso Chile
=23 801+ Rio de Janeiro State University (UERJ) Brazil
=23 801+ Simón Bolívar University Venezuela 
=23 801+ State University of Maringá Brazil
=23 801+ University of Santiago, Chile (USACH) Chile
=23 801+ University of Talca Chile
=23 801+ University of the Andes, Venezuela Venezuela

Resources: explore the rankings by subject

- Best universities for arts and humanities
- Best universities for life sciences

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