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.
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”.
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”.
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