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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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.
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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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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