Best universities in South America 2020

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

September 24 2019
Caminito Street in Buenos Aires, Argentina

Studying in South America may not be quite as popular as studying in North America, but the region can boast 26 universities in the Times Higher Education World University Rankings 2020 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 300 in the world. 

Best universities worldwide

Best universities in Australia
Best universities in the UK
Best universities in the United States
Best universities in Germany
Best universities in China
Best universities in Canada
Best universities in Europe
Best universities in Latin America

Chile has 18 universities in the full ranking, followed by Colombia with eight 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 2020 supplements a specific Latin America ranking last published in July 2019, which includes Central American universities.

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 2020; 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 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 addition to its faculties, the university operates four hospitals and 24 museums and galleries across its campuses.

=2. University of Desarrollo

The University of Desarrollo is a relatively young university having been established in 1990 in Chile.  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. 

There are football, hockey, volleyball, tennis and basketball teams that students can join at the university which 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: the faculty of law, the faculty of administrative sciences and the faculty of 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 is made up of three libraries: the law library, the library of architecture, art and design, and the Central Library Nicanor Parra. Together they hold more than 180,000 volumes. 

The university is continuing to expand its campus with the construction of a new economics campus in northern Santiago and a new central library in downtown Santiago. 

=2. Pontifical Javeriana University

The Pontifical Javeriana University is one of the oldest universities in South America, running continuously since 1623. 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 which is run by the organisation. 

There are 19 faculties at the university, including medicine, engineering, theology and architecture. Class sizes are small at the university 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.

Student experience in South America

Latin America’s top universities by reputation
What are the biggest barriers facing young scientists?
How can we encourage more women into engineering?
Pursuing a PhD in neuroscience
The 10 most beautiful universities in Latin America
Best universities in Brazil 
A week in the life of a student in Brazil
The cost of studying at a university in Brazil

Best universities in South America 2020

Click each institution to view its full World University Rankings 2020 results

South America Rank 2020 World University Rank 2020  University Country City/State
 251–300  University of São Paulo Brazil São Paulo
=2   401–500  University of Desarrollo Chile Concepción
=2   401–500  Diego Portales University Chile Santiago
=2   401–500  Pontifical Javeriana University Colombia Bogotá
=5   501–600  Universidad Autónoma de Chile Chile Temuco, Talca and Santiago
=5   501–600  University of Campinas Brazil Campinas
=5   501–600  Universidad Peruana Cayetano Heredia Peru Lima
=5   501–600  Pontifical Catholic University of Chile Chile Santiago
=9   601–800  University of the Andes, Colombia Colombia Bogotá
=9   601–800  Federal University of Minas Gerais Brazil Minas Gerais
=9   601–800  Federal University of Rio Grande do Sul Brazil Porto Alegre
=9   601–800  Federal University of Santa Catarina Brazil Florianópolis
=9   601–800  Federal University of São Paulo (UNIFESP) Brazil São Paulo
=9   601–800  Pontifical Catholic University of Rio de Janeiro (PUC-Rio) Brazil Rio de Janeiro
=15   801–1000  University of Brasília Brazil Brasília
=15   801–1000  University of Chile Chile Santiago
=15   801–1000  Federal University of Pelotas Brazil Pelotas
=15   801–1000  Federal University of Rio de Janeiro Brazil Rio de Janeiro
=15   801–1000  Federico Santa María Technical University Chile Valparaíso
=15   801–1000  University of La Frontera Chile Temuco
=15   801–1000  Pontifical Catholic University of Peru Peru Lima
=15   801–1000  Pontifical Catholic University of Rio Grande do Sul (PUCRS) Brazil Porto Alegre
=15   801–1000  São Paulo State University (UNESP) Brazil São Paulo
=23   1001+  University of the Andes, Chile Chile Santiago
=23    1001+  University of the Andes, Venezuela Venezuela Mérida
 =23   1001+  Andrés Bello University (UNAB) Chile Santiago
 =23   1001+  University of Antioquia Colombia Medellín
 =23   1001+  Austral University of Chile Chile Valdivia
 =23   1001+  University of Bío-Bío Chile Concepción
 =23   1001+  Catholic University of the North Chile Antofagasta
 =23   1001+  University of Caxias do Sul Brazil Caxias do Sul
 =23   1001+  Ceará State University Brazil Fortaleza
 =23   1001+  University of Concepción Chile  Concepción
 =23   1001+  Del Rosario University Colombia Bogotá
 =23   1001+  Federal University of ABC (UFABC) Brazil São Paulo
 =23   1001+  Federal University of Alagoas Brazil Maceió
 =23   1001+  Federal University of Bahia Brazil Salvador
 =23   1001+  Federal University of Ceará (UFC) Brazil Fortaleza
 =23   1001+  Federal University of Espírito Santo Brazil Espírito Santo
 =23   1001+  Federal University of Goiás Brazil Goiás
 =23   1001+  Federal University of Health Sciences of Porto Alegre (UFCSPA)  Brazil Porto Alegre
 =23   1001+  Federal University of Itajubá Brazil Itajubá
 =23   1001+  Federal University of Lavras Brazil Minas Gerais
 =23   1001+  Federal University of Mato Grosso do Sul Brazil Campo Grande
 =23   1001+  Federal University of Ouro Preto Brazil Ouro Preto
 =23   1001+  Federal University of Pará Brazil Belém
 =23   1001+  Federal University of Paraná (UFPR) Brazil Paraná
 =23   1001+  Federal University of Pernambuco Brazil Recife
 =23   1001+  Federal University of Rio Grande do Norte (UFRN) Brazil Natal
 =23   1001+  Federal Rural University of the Semi-Arid Region Brazil Mossoro
 =23   1001+  Federal University of Santa Maria Brazil Santa Maria
 =23   1001+  Federal University of São Carlos Brazil São Carlos
 =23   1001+  Federal University of Technology – Paraná Brazil Paraná
 =23   1001+  Federal University of Viçosa Brazil  Viçosa
 =23   1001+  Fluminense Federal University Brazil Rio de Janeiro
 =23   1001+  University of Fortaleza (UNIFOR) Brazil Fortaleza
 =23   1001+  Industrial University of Santander (UIS) Colombia Santander
 =23   1001+  Londrina State University Brazil Londrina
 =23   1001+  National University of Colombia Colombia Bogotá
 =23   1001+  National University of Córdoba Argentina Córdoba
 =23   1001+  National University of Cuyo Argentina Mendoza
 =23   1001+  National University of San Martín Argentina Buenos Aires
 =23   1001+  National University of the South Argentina Bahía Blanca
 =23   1001+  University of the North, Colombia Colombia Barranquilla
 =23   1001+  Pontifical Bolivarian University (UPB) – Medellín Colombia Medellín
 =23   1001+  Pontifical Catholic University of Minas Gerais Brazil Minas  Gerais
 =23   1001+  Pontifical Catholic University of Paraná Brazil Paraná
 =23   1001+  Pontifical Catholic University of Valparaíso Chile Valparaíso
 =23   1001+  Rio de Janeiro State University (UERJ) Brazil Rio de Janeiro
 =23   1001+  Santa Catarina State University Brazil Florianópolis
 =23   1001+  University of Santiago, Chile (USACH) Chile Santiago
 =23   1001+  Simón Bolívar University Venezuela Caracas
 =23   1001+  University of the Sinos Valley Brazil São Leopoldo
 =23   1001+  State University of Maringá Brazil Maringá
 =23   1001+  State University of Ponta Grossa Brazil Paraná
 =23   1001+  State University of Santa Cruz Brazil Bahia
 =23   1001+  University of Talca Chile Talca
 =23   1001+  University of Tarapacá Chile Arica
 =23   1001+  University of Valparaíso Chile Valparaíso
 =23   1001+  Western Paraná State University (Unioeste) Brazil Paraná

Read more: Best universities in the world 

Have your say

Log in or register to post comments

Study Business & Management in Colombia & Brazil

Study Computer Science in Colombia & Brazil

Study Mechanical & Aerospace Engineering in Colombia & Brazil

Study Electrical & Electronic Engineering in Colombia & Brazil

Study Accounting & Finance in Colombia & Brazil

Study Biological Sciences in Colombia & Brazil