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2013 QS University Rankings: Latin America – Overview

2013 QS University Rankings: Latin America – Overview main image

The 2015 results of the QS University Rankings: Latin America are out now. Click here to view the top 10.

Brazil reinforces its regional dominance in this year’s third annual QS University Rankings: Latin America. The Universidade de Sao Paolo (USP) tops the table for the third successive year, one of four Brazilian universities to make the top ten. A total of 81 Brazilian universities are included in the top 300, far more than any other nation.

Latin America’s top 300 universities are spread across 19 different countries: Brazil (81), Mexico (50), Colombia (42), Argentina (30), Chile (30), Peru (17), Ecuador (9), Venezuela (8), Cuba (5), Panama (5), Costa Rica (4), Uruguay (4), Dominican Republic (3), Guatemala (3), Paraguay (3), Bolivia (2), El Salvador (2), Honduras (1), Puerto Rico (1).

As in previous years, the rankings are based on seven indicators: academic reputation, employer reputation, faculty/student ratio, the proportion of staff with a PhD, research papers per faculty, citations per paper, and web presence.

Established hierarchy at the top

The relative stability of this year’s ranking reflects an established hierarchy at the top of the academic tree, making it hard for new institutions to break into the elite cluster. Eight of last year’s top ten maintain their positions this year, with two Chilean universities, Universidad de Santiago de Chile (USACH) and Universidad de Concepción, being replaced by Universidad Nacional de Colombia and Brazil’s Universidade Estadual Paulista "Júlio de Mesquita Filho".

The educational conflict that enveloped Chile’s universities in 2011/12 may explain the decline in the performance of several of its top universities this year.  Of the 30 Chilean universities in the top 300, 17 rank lower than last year, including four of the top five. Faculty/student ratios have deteriorated in relation to the rest of the region, while the turmoil also may be partially responsible for a general decline in the number of employers in the region targeting Chilean graduates.

The only one of Chile’s top five universities to avoid a drop in its position this year is Pontificia Universidad Católica de Chile, which again takes the number two spot, having maintained its excellent reputation among academics and employers, and high scores for research productivity and impact.

At the top of the table, USP underlines its status as the premier institution in Latin America, topping the rankings for the third successive year. USP is among the leading four universities in all but two of the seven indicators, a level of consistency that is unrivalled and accounts for its continued ascendancy. Employers identified USP graduates as the most sought-after in the region and it is also the top institution for web presence.

Mexican universities strong in reputation

However, despite its consistency across the board, USP doesn’t have it all its own way. For academic reputation Mexico’s UNAM is rated number one, based on a major survey in which academics throughout the region identified the leading institutions for research in their field of expertise.

UNAM was also the continent’s dominant institution in this year’s QS World University Rankings by Subject, which are heavily weighted towards academic reputation.

Yet despite the esteem in which academic peers hold its research, UNAM fails to replicate this performance across the range of indicators. Comparatively modest scores for faculty/student ratio, research papers per faculty member, and the proportion of faculty with a PhD see it rank sixth overall, one place lower than last year.

Fellow Mexican institution Tecnológico de Monterrey (ITESM) joins UNAM in the top ten, ranking seventh for the second successive year. ITESM is the second best performing university in the employer reputation survey, testament to the excellent reputation of its graduates.

Positive signs for Argentina and Colombia

Despite its leading institution Universidad de Buenos Aires dropping one place to 12th, the rankings are largely positive for Argentina. Nine of the country’s leading ten universities either maintain or improve their 2012 position, with nine Argentinian institutions making the top 50 – three more than last year.

Colombia can also point to encouraging signs, with improved positions for eight of its ten leading institutions. Universidad de Los Andes Colombia moves up two places to rank fourth in the region, its highest ever position. The institution’s continued strength in the reputation indicators is supplemented this year by improved scores for research productivity and impact – a trend replicated among four of Colombia’s top five institutions.

The rigor and authority of this year’s QS Rankings: Latin America has been underlined by the official approval of its methodology and data collection processes from the IREG Observatory on Academic Ranking and Excellence, along with QS World University Rankings and QS University Rankings: Asia.

This followed a comprehensive independent audit, verifying that the rankings are compiled professionally and with a transparent methodology, observe good practices, and respond to a need for relevant information from a range of stakeholders, in particular students, higher education institutions, employers and policy makers. QS is the first international ranking organization to have been found to have satisfied these requirements.

Written by Laura Bridgestock
The former editor of TopUniversities.com, Laura oversaw the site's editorial content and student forums. She also edited the QS Top Grad School Guide and contributed to market research reports, including 'How Do Students Use Rankings?'

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