7 of the Best Places to Study Abroad in Latin America | Top Universities

7 of the Best Places to Study Abroad in Latin America

By Sabrina Collier

Updated August 4, 2016 Updated August 4, 2016

Latin America’s vibrant and varied culture means there’s something for everyone – with relatively low costs in the region overall. Ahead of the latest QS University Rankings: Latin America launch, here are 7 of the best places to study abroad in Latin America, all offering renowned universities and a unique and lively study abroad experience to look back on.

1. Mexico


Starting off with the most-visited country in Latin America, Mexico attracted over 32 million tourists in 2015 and is fast becoming a popular study destination, with just under 12,800 international students enrolled in 2014. Plenty of images come to mind of Mexico, from sombreros to Mayan ruins to beautiful beaches, and the country’s mix of rich cultural traditions with urban modernity is sure to be a hit with visiting students. Mexico has plenty of great universities to choose from, with 45 entries in the QS University Rankings: Latin America 2016. The country’s higher education system follows a similar format to universities in Europe, and was ranked as one of the world’s best in the recent QS Higher Education System Strength Rankings, at 33rd. Although the language of instruction at Mexican universities is usually Spanish, there are an increasing number of English-taught programs available to attract more international students. Mexico’s highest-ranked institution is the Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México (UNAM), which is 4th in the Latin American rankings, and 160th in the overall QS World University Rankings® 2015/16.

2. Argentina


The next of our best places to study abroad in Latin America is Argentina, the second-largest country in Latin America and considered one of the safest in the region. Argentina is an ideal choice for Spanish-speaking students, and is also an affordable place to study, with relatively low living costs and public universities offering free tuition to all. Argentina makes 34 appearances in the QS University Rankings: Latin America. It’s also the highest-ranked Latin American country in the QS Higher Education System Strength Rankings, at 18th. Its vivacious capital city, Buenos Aires, will be a hit with urbanites, and features at 32nd in the QS Best Student Cities 2016. Or if the big city isn’t your thing, the country is home to some of the most picturesque natural beauty in the region, with a diverse landscape that offers opportunities for adventure, exploration and outdoor activities. The highest-ranked Argentinian university is Universidad de Buenos Aires, 11th in the Latin American rankings and joint 124th in the QS World University Rankings 2015/16.

3. Uruguay

Uruguay is a prosperous, friendly and laid-back nation, sometimes nicknamed the ‘Switzerland of South America’. It’s been ranked first in Latin America for its peace, democracy and lack of corruption, as well as its liberal society (same sex marriage and abortion are both legal). Uruguay is another fairly affordable option, with living costs over 28% lower than the United Kingdom according to Numbeo. Uruguay’s capital city, Montevideo, is known for its vibrant culture, beaches and entrepreneurial spirit, and has been consistently ranked as having the highest quality of life of any city in Latin America according to the Mercer Quality of Living survey. Uruguay has four entrants in the QS University Rankings: Latin America, with the country’s only public university, the Universidad de la República (UdelaR) the highest ranked at joint 39th, while the private Universidad de Montevideo is the country’s leading entry in the overall world rankings, at 601-650.

4. Costa Rica

Heading back to Central America for the next of our best places to study abroad in Latin America, Costa Rica is another ideal study abroad destination for students with a taste for adventure, offering plenty to explore, from volcanoes to tropical rainforests. Its rich biodiversity also makes it perfect for those studying biological or environmental sciences. Costa Rica boasts a high quality of life, political stability and economic prosperity (appropriate, as the country’s name translates to “rich coast”). Costa Rica has one of the highest literacy rates in Latin America, at 96%. Its large and bustling capital, San José, is considered one of Latin America’s safest cities, and is a major center of commerce, education and culture. Costa Rica has four entrants in the QS University Rankings: Latin America, with Universidad de Costa Rica the highest ranked at joint 18th (501-550 in the world rankings).

5. Chile

Another ideal study abroad destination for adventurous students and lovers of the outdoors, Chile boasts 30 entrants in the Latin America rankings, with Pontificia Universidad Católica de Chile (UC) leading at 3rd in Latin America and 170th in the QS World University Rankings. Chile has extreme contrasts in its climate, with deserts in the north and glaciers in the south, as well as dense forests and open plains. It has much to offer international students, with a highly developed infrastructure, political stability, prosperity and strong universities. Its capital, Santiago, has a thriving arts scene, and was ranked joint 49th in the most recent QS Best Student Cities index, with a particularly high score for employer activity. Although more expensive than other Latin American countries, Chile is still a very affordable option in comparison to popular study destinations elsewhere in the world, with fees and living costs remaining fairly low.

6. Colombia

Boasting 41 representatives in the Latin American rankings, Colombia is diverse, vibrant and varied, and has become a safer and more prosperous country in recent years, with its citizens reportedly the happiest in the world. (However, foreign visitors should still be aware of certain areas which are best avoided – the UK’s foreign office has good advice on this.) Colombia’s economy is one of the fastest-growing in Latin America, with capital city Bogotá quickly becoming one of the region’s most prominent business hubs, while the city of Medellín is known for its innovation and advances in education, politics and social development. The most biodiverse country in the world, Colombia is the only Latin American country to border both the Atlantic (Caribbean) and Pacific Ocean, and therefore boasts 3,208 km of coastline with gorgeous tropical beaches. Colombia’s highest-ranked university in both the regional and world rankings is Universidad de Los Andes, ranked 8th in Latin America and 283rd worldwide.

7. Brazil

The final of our list of the best places to study abroad in Latin America is Brazil, the largest country in the region, which boasts beautiful beaches, samba and a party atmosphere. Brazilians are very friendly and welcoming and know how to have a good time, whether it’s by playing football (soccer) or taking part in the annual Carnival festivities. Brazil is also a major hub for education in the Latin American region, dominating the Latin American rankings with an impressive 76 entries out of the 300 universities featured, of which Universidade de São Paulo (USP) places 1st (and joint 143rd in the world rankings). Although living costs are somewhat higher in Brazil than in other countries in the region, international students will no doubt be pleased to hear that they may be able to study for free or at low cost in a public university. The recent political upheaval in Brazil means that international students are advised to avoid political protests and demonstrations. However, most visits are trouble-free. 

This article was originally published in June 2016 . It was last updated in August 2016

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