Fancy studying in the Latin American nation of Venezuela? Click on the tabs below for more information about universities in Venezuela, student cities, lifestyle and more.
Venezuela has nine universities featured within the QS University Rankings: Latin America 2015 - far fewer than the nation’s higher education giants Brazil and Mexico, but still a very respectable selection. Venezuela’s highest ranking institution is the Universidad Central de Venezuela (UCV) which ranks 32nd in Latin America – having climbed from 52nd place over the past five years.
This climb means UCV has recently overtaken the Universidad Simón Bolívar – which is still close behind, at 34th. The Universidad Católica Andrés Bello, Universidad de los Andes Mérida and Universidad Metropolitana also make Latin America’s top 100, while Universidad de Carabobo and Universidad del Zulia join them in the top 200. Although most of these are public universities, the Universidad Metropolitana and Universidad Católica Andrés Bello are in the private sector.
Over the past decade or so, the government has increased investment in higher education dramatically, and reports that the number of university students has grown from 600,000 in 1998 to more than two million as of 2011. Thirteen new universities have been opened during this period, including the Universidad Bolivariana de Venezuela, Universidad Indígena de Venezuela, National Experimental University of Sur del Lago, Sports University of the People of the South, and National University of Arts.
While not among Latin America’s most-visited countries, Venezuela is not short on attractions, both natural and cultural. On the natural side, there’s the longest stretch of Caribbean coastline in any single country, varied and exotic inland terrain, and even the world’s highest uninterrupted waterfall, Salto Angel (Angel Falls). At the cultural end of the spectrum, capital Caracas has all bases covered – from ballet to bar-hopping, and salsa to street markets.
A recent study conducted for the UN pronounced Venezuelans the happiest nation in South America, and second happiest in the entire Latin American region (after Costa Rica). Venezuela was also the only nation classed as ‘developing’ with happiness levels in the top 20 worldwide, which some have seen as testimony to the country’s growing investment in social care and services – including a strong focus on higher education.
As a student in Venezuela, you’re likely to be based in the nation’s capital and largest city, Caracas, which is where many of the top institutions have their main campuses. Universities based in Caracas include the Universidad Católica Andrés Bello, Universidad Simón Bolívar, Universidad Central de Venezuela, Universia Venezuela and Universidad Metropolitana.
A busy hub for business and industry, Caracas is also a center for culture. Its Museo de Arte Contemporaneo is recognized as one of Latin America’s most important collections of modern art, while the city’s annual International Theatre Festival attracts renowned theatre companies from around the world. In fact, Caracas has pretty much every cultural base covered – and if you just fancy exploring some good bars and clubs or sampling different cuisines, that’s all on offer too. In addition, the climate here must be among the world’s most desirable; it’s said that in Caracas there is no winter – only spring and summer.
Unfortunately, studying in Caracas does have its down sides too – notably pollution, traffic congestion, and high rates of violent crime in some areas of the city. But then, it’s easy to escape the city and seek fresh air in the nearby countryside, which is dominated by the Mountain El Ávila. Hikers who reach the top are rewarded by stunning views, as well as a selection of restaurants at which to relax. (If you’re feeling less energetic, there’s also a cable car you can ride to the top.)
Beyond Caracas, notable student cities include Mérida, home to the Universidad de los Andes Mérida, and Valencia, where you’ll find the Universidad de Carabobo.
Venezuelan currency is the Bolivar fuerte (BSF), and one BSF is equivalent to around 16 US cents. This rate means that living in Venezuela can be very affordable for foreigners, but visitors should expect variations in living conditions.
Many universities in Venezuela will support international students throughout the process of moving to Venezuela, providing transport to and from the airport as well as information on student accommodation. In some cases, the school will help you to rent a room with a host family, making the move much smoother. You should contact the university directly for information about this.
It is highly likely you’ll need a student visa if you wish to study in Venezuela. To get this you’ll need to make an application to your local Venezuelan embassy or consulate after receiving acceptance to study at a recognized university. For general guidance on getting a student visa, take a look at this article.
Students looking to study in Venezuela should be aware of the country’s proximity to some of the world’s largest drug trafficking rings, particularly to the west of the nation bordering Colombia. The UK Foreign and Commonwealth Office advises travelers against visiting these bordering states (named Zulia, Tachira and Apure) due to safety risks caused by drug traffickers and armed gangs, including some risk of kidnapping. To get up-to-date information on this situation, make sure to check with your home country’s foreign office.
While these safety risks are mostly limited to certain areas, visitors to the country should take care and apply common sense wherever they are based. Some recent political demonstrations in the largest cities, such as Caracas and Merida, have turned violent and led to injury and death among protesters due to the use of firearms. While for those studying in Venezuela the threat is minimal, it is advised that students avoid large gatherings and remain alert to protesting situations. There may also be some disruption to transport services during these times.
While travelling in Venezuela, be sure to carry identification with you at all times in case of roadside military checks. Keeping a color photograph of your passport on your person may also be useful. While military checks are frequent, they are rarely cause for concern, but be aware that the nation does have its share of corruption within official systems.
The bus system in Venezuela is very cheap and travels between many hard-to-reach areas. Although bus terminals are often hectic, you will usually be able to find regular buses to any major city in the country. For travel within cities, taxis are a good option; although they are the most expensive travel option, they are nonetheless still relatively affordable from an international perspective, as well as quick and easy to use.
If you are studying in Caracas, the capital, you’ll also be able to use the metro system, which is modern, clean, cheap and currently being expanded. Although armed robbery is rare on public transport, you should stay alert for pickpocketing, which is common.