QS University Rankings: Latin America™ launch event a big success

By Danny Byrne

The first ever ranking of Latin American universities was launched by QS on 4th October with an event at Canning House in London. Attended by an important number of embassies from Latin America in UK, journalists, universities in the UK, and other key stakeholders, the event was sponsored by IELTS and supported by the Foreign Commonwealth Office and the Canning House, and viewed live online by over 2,000 people among universities, students, employers, media and independent organisations from Latin America and other countries in the world.

Ben Sowter – Launch of the QS University Rankings: Latin America from QSIU Latin America on Vimeo.

The event was opened by Professor Maxine Molyneu, Director of the Institute for the Study of the Americas, who welcomed the new ranking as a positive development for universities in the region.

“This exercise draws attention to the significant achievements that Latin America has made in higher education, and serves as a reminder that a good number of universities have attained international standing for the quality of their research and teaching programs,” Molyneu stated. “The information will help to support international exchange and collaboration between scholars and institutions, and that in turn will help to advance knowledge”.

Maxine Molyneux – Launch of the QS University Rankings: Latin America from QSIU Latin America on Vimeo.

Introducing the new exercise, QS Managing Director Nunzio Quacquarelli situated QS University Rankings: Latin America™ within an evolution toward more nuanced and targeted QS research exercises, stretching from the first QS World University Rankings® in 2004 through to the QS Asian University Rankings™, QS World University Rankings® by Subject, QS Stars™, and the now QS University Rankings: Latin America™.

“QS serves the informational need of students and parents first and foremost, and we have set out to innovate in the information we provide since our launch in 1990,” he stated. “These rankings meet a real need for information for a major part of the world’s population”.

QS Head of Research Ben Sowter pointed to increased student mobility as one of the factors driving the need for greater comparative information on the region’s universities, citing as an example the 250% growth in international students in Chile between 2000 and 2008. “There has been a dramatic change in some of the migration patterns and some of the decisions being made by international students in the region,” Sowter stated. “While much of that mobility stems from within Latin America, increasingly European students are beginning to look to the region as a potential destination.”

Sowter outlined the detailed consultation with Latin American institutions that QS undertook while finalizing the methodology for the rankings. A survey of over 110 institutions in the region identified the importance of factors such as the proportion of academics with a PhD, web presence, and research papers per faculty, which were introduced for the first time alongside more staple QS rankings criteria such as academic and employer reputation, student/faculty ratio and research citations.

“University systems in Latin America are now among the fastest changing and fastest growing in the world,” said Sowter. “We have been able to gather an unprecedented level of information to put together a much richer comparative picture of Latin American higher education than has ever been compiled before”.

QS University Rankings: Latin America™ Project Manager Liliana Casallas emphasised the wider importance of the rankings for universities in the region, and outlined the extensive consultation that ensured that data was available from all universities in the region: “This has just been a very valuable exercise for universities in data collection, integration and communication within the different departments”, Casallas stated. “For some it has been easier than for others, but this is one of the indirect benefits of participation in this type of study”.

Casallas also stressed that the rankings will expand and develop as they mature, with universities becoming more familiar with data collection processes and continual work being carried out by QS to develop new assessment criteria. “The next edition of QS will have more challenges, such as developments in the methodology, expanding and improving channels with universities for data collection, strengthening data collection in Central America in particular, increasing our operational capacity, and including new partners and sponsors”.

Stephen Carey (IELTS) – Launch of the QS University Rankings: Latin America from QSIU Latin America on Vimeo.

To follow the video conferences and dowload the presentations please click here

Cuba, a new important player for higher education in Latin America?

by Liliana Casallas

Interestingly, UNESCO reported that in the last ten years, there has been an impressive 96% increase of the number of mobile students from Latin American and the Caribbean countries.  As shown in

Table I, in 1999, students from Caribbean countries formed a large proportion (66%) of the student migration from this Region who decided to study in Cuba. 25% were from South America and Mexico for the same year. This dramatically changed.

In 2008, the total number of mobile students in the region studying in Cuba reached 24,928 students. Mexico and South America represented 74% of the students enrolled in Cuba; Caribbean students represented only 10% (although their number tripled since 1999). Is this change in the flow of students a matter of educational quality, cost and/ or a sign of effective government agreements?

Region 1999 2008
Caribbean Islands 700 2,555
Central America 92 3,995
South America & Mexico 259 18,378
Total mobile students in Cuba 1,051 24,928

Table I. Source Unesco .  Latin American and Caribbean Students in Cuba

As the graph shows below, since 2004, Spain has been displaced as the top destination for Latin American Students by Cuba which received 14% of the mobile students in the Region compared to only 6% enrolled in 2007. Certainly, it would be interesting to understand the factors that have influenced the fall of Latinamerica students pursuing studies in Spain since then.

A closer outlook at the numbers show that this phenomenon bloomed in 2001 with an increase of 71% of students in Cuba from the previous year. Again, in 2007 the number almost doubled from 12,447 to 22,916 students from Latin American and Caribbean countries.  Cuba hosted 26,889 international students in 2007, almost the same proportion as countries like Sweden, Belgium and Netherlands. Read more

HE News Brief 6.4.10

by Abby Chau


A few higher educational news articles of interest this week include:

  • Two Cuban medical students spoke at U.S universities recently, marking the first time in years such an exchange took place. They will discuss Cuba’s initiative to bring medical care to places around the world who need it most. Cuba sent 300 medical professionals to Haiti recently.
    Full Story: Washington Post
  • Israel is set for new educational reforms that will hopefully augment the availability and quality of higher education. Students will play a pivotal role in the proposed reforms.
    Full Story: Lariat Online
    Read more

Where do Latin American Students choose to study?

by Liliana Casallas


There are various factors that influence a student when choosing their study abroad destination. Students usually take into account country profiles, educational reputation, university accreditations, a university’s international profile, visa requirements, international student support, fees, grants and potential hardships.   There are may also be additional incentives relating to a country’s capacity to receive international students: a simplified process for visa approval, and permission to work as a student during enrollment, or even to migrate as a highly qualified skilled worker, are a few examples.

A focus group conducted by JWT Education concluded that the principle motivations for Latin American students to study overseas are childhood dreams of studying abroad, as well as the prospect of improved English and enhanced career opportunities.

Unesco* reported over 2.7 million students enrolled overseas in 2007, an impressive increase of 53% since 1999. The flow of students is mainly from Asia (China, India, Korea, Japan and Malaysia), Europe (Germany, France, Russia) and the United States.   Latin America and the Caribbean represented 6% of mobile students worldwide, totalling 168,231.

Taking a look at the Latin American regional figures, there are some interesting findings. 53% of the Latin American students who study overseas are originally from one of five countries: Mexico (15%), Brazil (13%), Colombia (10%), Peru (8%) and Venezuela (7%). See Table I. Among students from these countries, the US is the most popular destination, followed by Spain.

Country LA Students Top 3 destinations
Mexico 24,950 USA, Spain, UK
Brazil 21,556 USA, France, Portugal
Colombia 17,531 USA, France, Spain
Peru 13,130 USA, Chile, Spain
Venezuela 11,844 USA, Cuba, Spain
Ecuador 7,098 USA, Cuba, Chile
Table I. Source Unesco, 2007.Proportion of mobile Latin American Students by country of origin.

On an international level, the US is the most popular host country (21%), followed by the UK (13%), France (9%) and Australia (8%).  There are new emerging destinations for students who want to study abroad: China, Republic of Korea and New Zealand. Read more