2013 QS University Rankings: Latin America- An Overview

Latin America just refuses to stay out of the news, whether the subject is the forthcoming World Cup and Olympic Games in Brazil, or more serious matters such as the new government of Venezuela.

One surprising feature of media interest in the region is that it often involves issues connected to higher education and research. Examples include Cuba’s training of medical personnel for the developing world, as well as its biotechnology skills, and Brazil’s world standing in plant science.

So it is appropriate that Latin America is the second region of the world after Asia to have its own QS university ranking, which has just been published for the third year.

Like our Asian rankings, the QS University Rankings Latin America make use of specific measures appropriate to the region alongside some of the data which is also used to compile the World University Rankings. This means that these regional rankings have far more validity than a simple local version of the World Rankings would possess.

The top three universities in these rankings are unchanged from 2012, and are Sao Paulo (Brazil), the Pontifical Catholic University of Chile, and Unicamp, again in Brazil. However, the ranking also shows that academic excellence is widespread in the region. The top 100 includes universities in 13 nations, including one each in Uruguay, Paraguay, Puerto Rico, Cuba and Ecuador. The total list of 400 universities which we publish also includes institutions from Bolivia, the Dominican Republic, Guatemala, Honduras, Nicaragua, Panama, Surinam and El Salvador, so that 21 nations are represented in all.

As with our World Rankings, the overall results naturally tend to show nations with big populations and developed economies in a good light. So Brazil has 28 of the region’s top 100 universities, Argentina 19 and Chile 13.

We find, too, that the region’s topuniversities are well-liked by academics and employers in QS’s extensive surveys of these groups. They are also prolific producers of research, with Unicamp and Sao Paulo top of the papers per faculty measure. However, Sao Paulo shows only modestly in our measure of how often papers are cited, an analysis topped by Colombia’s Universidas del Bosque, nearly 200th in our overall ranking.

Indeed, this ranking in general shows an interesting level of diversity in Latin American higher education. The top faculty/student ratio is at the Colegio de Mexico, which finishes 102 overall. The Instituto Technologico de Buenos Aires is top for staff with a PhD, a measure on which nearly 20 universities converge with a near-perfect result.Our finding suggest that local institutions are perhaps more diverse on the measures we use than those we rank in Asia, despite its bigger size and population.

The Latin American rankings also make use of the Webometrics analysis of the web presence of universities, in response to suggestions from the region. Webometrics measures institutions’ web presence via their density of web links, their contribution to open document repositories, their highly-cited papers and their total number of web pages. These may not all be indicators of quality, but they do tell us something about their presence in the world of open information.

While the global Webometrics rankings are dominated by US universities, with 17 of the top 20 positions, Sao Paulo is 19th overall. Regionally, this measure too shows institutions in a positive light that rank only modestly on our other measures. Examples include Santa Catarina University in Brazil, 13th in the region on this measure but 49thin the ranking overall.