Discover the Best Universities in South America for International Students

September 25, 2023
By AdmissionSight
Caltech undergraduate requirements for internation students

Discover the Best Universities in South America for International Students

South America is a diverse continent rich in culture, history, and educational opportunities. It is home to some of the world’s leading universities, offering a unique and unforgettable experience for international students looking to further their education. This article provides a comprehensive guide to the best Universities in South America for international students, highlighting aspects such as the education system, admission process, costs, scholarships, student life, and career opportunities.

Understanding the South American Education System

The education system in South America, while varying from country to country, has many universal features. Understanding these can provide international students with an insight into the academic environment they can expect to encounter in their chosen university.

South America is home to a diverse range of universities, each with its own unique characteristics and strengths. From the historic and prestigious institutions in countries like Argentina and Brazil to the emerging educational hubs in Colombia and Chile, students have a wide range of options to choose from.

Key Features of South American Universities

South American universities are renowned for their strong focus on research, particularly in fields such as humanities, social science, medicine, and environmental studies. Professors and researchers in these institutions are often at the forefront of groundbreaking discoveries and advancements in their respective fields.

Group of students walking in the campus.

Moreover, South American universities place great emphasis on community interactions. Many institutions have established programs that involve students in local community services, providing them with opportunities to make a positive impact beyond the classroom. This commitment to community engagement fosters a sense of social responsibility and prepares students to be active global citizens.

Furthermore, these universities feature considerable diversity in their student population, integrating students from all around the world. This multicultural environment not only enriches the academic experience but also promotes cross-cultural understanding and collaboration. Students have the opportunity to learn from their peers’ diverse perspectives and develop a global mindset that will serve them well in an increasingly interconnected world.

Language of Instruction in South American Universities

While Spanish and Portuguese are the predominant languages in South America, many universities offer courses in English to cater to the growing number of international students. This allows students who are not fluent in the local languages to pursue their studies without language barriers.

However, students are encouraged to learn the local language to fully immerse themselves in the culture and society of their host country. Proficiency in the local language not only enhances students’ overall experience but also enables them to engage in class discussions, interact with the local community, and build meaningful connections.

Learning a new language can be a rewarding and transformative experience. It opens doors to new friendships, cultural insights, and a deeper understanding of the local context. Many universities offer language programs and resources to support students in their language-learning journey, ensuring that they have the necessary tools to thrive academically and socially.

Top Universities in South America for International Students

South America boasts a number of reputable universities that are recognized globally for their academic excellence and diverse programs. Studying in South America not only offers a unique cultural experience but also provides access to top-ranked institutions that are known for their commitment to education and research.

When it comes to ranking universities in South America, several criteria are taken into consideration. These criteria include academic reputation, employer reputation, faculty-student ratio, citation per faculty, international faculty, and international students. By evaluating these factors, a comprehensive ranking system is established to identify the best universities in the region.

Ranking Criteria for Universities

These universities are ranked based on factors such as academic reputation, which takes into account the quality of education, research output, and overall academic standing. Employer reputation is another crucial factor, as it reflects how well the graduates are perceived by employers and their success in the job market, making them some of the best universities in South America for international students.

a group of international students, each holding the flag of their origin country

The faculty-student ratio is an important indicator of the level of attention and support students can expect from their professors. A low ratio ensures that students have access to personalized guidance and mentoring, enhancing their learning experience.

Citation per faculty measures the impact of a university’s research output. It indicates the number of times the research conducted by faculty members is cited by other scholars, reflecting the influence and significance of their work.

International faculty and international students are also considered in the ranking process. A diverse faculty and student body contribute to a multicultural learning environment, fostering global perspectives and cross-cultural understanding.

Overview of Top-Ranked Universities

The University of São Paulo in Brazil is consistently ranked as one of the top universities in South America for international students. With its strong emphasis on research and innovation, it offers a wide range of programs across various disciplines. The university’s commitment to academic excellence has attracted renowned professors from around the world, creating a vibrant and intellectually stimulating environment.

Pontificia Universidad Católica de Chile in Chile is another prestigious institution that stands out for its academic rigor and interdisciplinary approach. Known for its strong programs in engineering, business, and social sciences, it provides students with a comprehensive education that prepares them for the challenges of the modern world.

Universidad de Buenos Aires in Argentina is renowned for its strong emphasis on social sciences and humanities. With a rich history and a diverse student body, the university offers a vibrant and intellectually stimulating environment for students to explore their academic interests.

These top-ranked universities in South America not only provide high-quality education but also offer a wide range of extracurricular activities, cultural events, and opportunities for personal growth. International students can expect a welcoming and inclusive community that embraces diversity and fosters academic excellence.

Which South American university offers world-class education?

When it comes to seeking world-class education among the top South American universities catering to international students, one institution stands out as a global educational beacon. The University of São Paulo (Universidade de São Paulo) has earned a prestigious reputation forged through a collaboration of three esteemed Brazilian educational entities, comprising a law school, an engineering school, and an agricultural school.

Since its establishment in 1934, the University of São Paulo has proudly nurtured a remarkable list of distinguished alumni, including 12 Brazilian presidents. Beyond being renowned as one of the foremost educational institutions in Latin America, it also hosts the largest research institution in the region.

The University of São Paulo’s acclaim is reinforced by its impressive rankings. It claims the top spot in Latin America according to the U.S. News and World Report 2021 Best Global Universities in Latin America. Additionally, it secures the second position in Latin America in the Times Higher Education World University Rankings and the third spot in the region according to the QS World University Rankings for 2022. These consistently high rankings across multiple renowned university rating sources underscore the university’s exceptional standing.

In terms of location, São Paulo is the largest city in South America, offering students a vibrant array of opportunities for learning, shopping, and experiencing the lively samba culture. If you are drawn to the vitality of major urban centers, São Paulo is an unrivaled destination, as it ranks among the world’s top ten largest metropolitan regions according to the World Atlas.

Where can you find exceptional internship opportunities in South America?

If you’re seeking the best South American university to pursue enriching internship experiences, look no further. The Pontifical Catholic University of Chile (Pontificia Universidad Católica de Chile), situated in the picturesque city of Santiago, at the foothills of the majestic Andes mountains, offers a remarkable platform for students to thrive. This vibrant city boasts a thriving economy, a diverse range of world-class restaurants, and a lively nightlife scene.

The Pontifical Catholic University of Chile takes great pride in its deep-rooted engagement with the broader Santiago community. While internships aren’t mandatory for graduation at this institution, they are highly encouraged, especially for students majoring in fields such as marketing, media, or healthcare. What’s even more appealing is that international students can earn academic credits while participating in supervised internships.

For students who choose to attend classes in Santiago, the experience is truly unique. They find themselves amidst a juxtaposition of modern skyscrapers and historic colonial government structures. Those with a keen interest in business, finance, and politics will discover that this esteemed pontifical university offers them many advantages, making it an ideal choice for those seeking valuable internship opportunities.

Where can you find the top South American universities for STEM studies?

If you’re pursuing the finest South American university for international students aiming to excel in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics) fields, look no further. The Universidad Técnica Federico Santa María (USM), nestled in Rancagua, Chile, just an hour and a half’s drive south of Santiago, offers a prime destination. This campus is strategically positioned in the heart of Chile’s wine country, close to ‘el Teniente,’ the world’s largest copper mine.

When it’s time for a study break, you can rejuvenate by camping in the ‘Reserva Nacional Río Los Cipreces.’ For those seeking off-campus adventures, nearby hot springs and hiking trails await exploration.

According to the 2021 Times Higher Education World University Rankings, USM proudly secures its place among the top 50 institutions in Latin America. Notably, it consistently holds the leading position in Latin America for Engineering and Technology programs, making it an excellent choice for those aspiring to pursue STEM studies. While international students make up approximately 4% of the student body at USM, the university offers a robust exchange program, facilitating connections with colleges around the globe.

Admission Process for International Students

Admissions to South American universities involve a few standard procedures that international students must follow. However, the journey of pursuing higher education in a foreign country is filled with excitement and challenges. Let’s dive deeper into the admission process to gain a better understanding.

Application Requirements

Application requirements typically include a completed application form, high school or previous university transcripts, letters of recommendation, a personal statement, and proof of language proficiency for courses taught in a language other than English. These requirements ensure that the university can assess the applicant’s academic background, personal qualities, and language skills.

When it comes to transcripts, universities often evaluate the applicant’s performance in previous educational institutions. This helps them gauge the candidate’s academic capabilities and potential for success in their chosen field of study. Letters of recommendation, on the other hand, provide valuable insights into the applicant’s character, work ethic, and potential for growth.

The personal statement is a vital component of the application process. It allows applicants to showcase their unique experiences, goals, and motivations. This is an opportunity for students to express their passion for their chosen field of study and explain why they are a good fit for the university.

Moreover, for international students, language proficiency plays a crucial role. Many South American universities offer courses taught in languages other than English, such as Spanish or Portuguese. Therefore, applicants may need to provide proof of their language skills through standardized tests like the Test of English as a Foreign Language (TOEFL) or the International English Language Testing System (IELTS).

Visa and Immigration Information

International students will also need a student visa, which requires an acceptance letter from the university, proof of financial support, and, in some cases, a health certificate. Obtaining a student visa can be a complex process, as it involves dealing with immigration authorities and adhering to specific regulations, especially when applying to the best universities in South America for international students.

Once an international student receives an acceptance letter from a South American university, they must initiate the visa application process. This typically involves submitting various documents, such as a valid passport, proof of financial support to cover tuition fees and living expenses, and a detailed plan of study.

Additionally, some countries may require international students to undergo a medical examination and provide a health certificate to ensure they are in good health and meet the necessary health standards. This requirement aims to protect the well-being of both the student and the local community.

It’s important for international students to familiarize themselves with the specific visa requirements of the country they wish to study in. Each country may have its own set of regulations and procedures, so thorough research and guidance from the university’s international student office are crucial.

Overall, the admission process for international students in South American universities involves not only academic evaluation but also navigating the intricacies of visa and immigration procedures. It is an exciting and challenging journey that requires careful planning, attention to detail, and a strong desire to pursue higher education in a foreign land.

Cost of Studying in South America

The cost of studying in South America can differ significantly depending on the university and the country. However, it is important to note that studying in South America can be a cost-effective option for international students.

South America is home to a diverse range of countries, each with its own unique educational system and cost structure. Let’s take a closer look at some key factors that contribute to the overall cost of studying in South America.

Tuition Fees at South American Universities

When it comes to tuition fees, South America offers a mix of options. Some countries like Argentina and Uruguay have made tertiary education free for both domestic and international students. This means that you can pursue your academic dreams without the burden of tuition fees.

Tuition fees for students

On the other hand, countries like Brazil and Chile require tuition fees for higher education. However, even in these countries, the tuition fees are often lower compared to those in North America or Europe. This makes South American universities an attractive choice for students seeking quality education at an affordable price.

Living Costs in South America

In addition to tuition fees, living costs play a significant role in determining the overall cost of studying in South America. The good news is that South American countries generally have a lower cost of living compared to many other regions worldwide.

Whether you choose to study in vibrant cities like Buenos Aires, Rio de Janeiro, or Santiago or opt for a more serene and picturesque location, you will find that your living expenses are relatively affordable. From accommodation to transportation, food to entertainment, South America offers a wide range of options that cater to different budgets.

Moreover, South America is known for its rich cultural heritage and diverse culinary traditions. Exploring local markets, trying traditional dishes, and immersing yourself in the vibrant local culture can be an enriching experience that won’t break the bank.

When considering the cost of studying in South America, it is important to factor in other expenses such as health insurance, visa fees, and travel costs. These additional costs may vary depending on your home country and the specific requirements of the South American country you choose to study in.

Overall, studying in South America offers a unique opportunity to receive a quality education while experiencing the rich cultural diversity and natural beauty of the region, all at a relatively affordable cost. Whether you are interested in pursuing a degree in the arts, sciences, or business, South America has a wide range of educational institutions that can cater to your academic aspirations.

Scholarships and Financial Aid for International Students

Funding your education as an international student can be easier through scholarships and financial aid programs. Pursuing higher education abroad can be a life-changing experience, but it often comes with a hefty price tag. Fortunately, there are numerous opportunities available to help alleviate the financial burden and make your dreams a reality.

When it comes to scholarships, the options are vast and diverse. Academic merit scholarships are one of the most common types available to international students. These scholarships are awarded based on your academic achievements, such as high grades or exceptional test scores. They recognize your dedication and hard work, providing financial support to help you pursue your educational goals.

Aside from academic merit scholarships, there are also sports scholarships for those who excel in athletics. If you have a talent for a particular sport, you may be eligible for financial assistance to support your studies while representing your university in competitive sports events. These scholarships not only provide financial aid but also give you the opportunity to showcase your skills and passion on a larger stage.

Furthermore, there are scholarships specifically designed for students from certain nationalities. These scholarships aim to promote cultural diversity and international collaboration by offering financial support to students from underrepresented regions. By providing opportunities to students from all corners of the globe, these scholarships contribute to a more inclusive and interconnected academic community.

Applying for financial aid as an international student can sometimes feel like a daunting task. However, many universities have dedicated financial aid offices that are ready to assist you throughout the process. These offices can provide guidance on the application requirements, deadlines, and available aid programs. They understand the unique challenges faced by international students and are committed to helping you navigate the financial landscape.

financial aid for students

In addition to university-specific financial aid, there are also various international programs that offer financial assistance to international students. These programs may be funded by governments, non-profit organizations, or private institutions. They often have specific eligibility criteria and application procedures, so it is important to thoroughly research and explore all available options.

Remember, scholarships and financial aid are not limited to a select few. With determination, perseverance, and thorough research, you can find the support you need to pursue your educational aspirations. Don’t let financial constraints hold you back from reaching your full potential. Take advantage of the numerous scholarships and financial aid programs available to international students and embark on a transformative educational journey.

Student Life in South America

Studying in South America means experiencing a unique blend of cultures, languages, and lifestyles.

South America is a continent that is rich in diversity and offers a plethora of opportunities for students to immerse themselves in a vibrant and dynamic student life. From the bustling streets of Buenos Aires to the stunning landscapes of Rio de Janeiro, South America is a region that never fails to captivate and inspire.

One of the first things that students need to consider when studying in South America is their accommodation. Fortunately, there are a variety of options available to suit different preferences and budgets. University dormitories provide a convenient and social living environment, allowing students to connect with fellow classmates and engage in extracurricular activities.

Private apartments or shared flats offer more independence and flexibility, giving students the opportunity to experience the local lifestyle firsthand. For those seeking a truly immersive experience, a homestay with a local family can provide a unique insight into the culture and traditions of the host country.

Accommodation Options for Students

Accommodation options for students range from university dormitories to private apartments or shared flats. Students can also experience local life by choosing a homestay with a local family.

University dormitories are not just a place to sleep; they are vibrant communities that foster a sense of camaraderie and friendship. Living in a dormitory allows students to be in close proximity to their classes, libraries, and other campus facilities. It also provides an opportunity to participate in various social and cultural events organized by the university, such as movie nights, game tournaments, and workshops. With roommates from different backgrounds, students can learn about different cultures and forge lifelong friendships.

On the other hand, private apartments or shared flats offer a greater degree of independence and privacy. Students can choose to live with fellow classmates or friends, sharing the responsibilities of rent, utilities, and household chores. This option allows students to create their own routines and experience the local lifestyle on their own terms. It also provides an opportunity to develop essential life skills such as budgeting, cooking, and time management.

For those seeking a more immersive experience, a homestay with a local family can be a transformative experience. Living with a local family allows students to practice their language skills, learn about local customs and traditions, and gain a deeper understanding of the host country’s culture. From sharing meals together to participating in family activities, students can form meaningful connections and create lasting memories.

Cultural and Social Opportunities

South America offers a wealth of cultural and social opportunities, from visiting historic landmarks, enjoying local festivals, and exploring nature’s wonders to indulging in local cuisine.

Students smiling at the camera together.

South America is a continent steeped in history and culture, with a rich tapestry of traditions and customs. Students studying in South America have the opportunity to visit iconic landmarks such as Machu Picchu in Peru, Christ the Redeemer in Brazil, and the ancient ruins of Tikal in Guatemala. These historic sites not only provide a glimpse into the region’s past but also offer breathtaking views and a sense of wonder.

Furthermore, South America is known for its vibrant festivals and celebrations. From the colorful Carnival in Brazil to the lively Inti Raymi festival in Peru, students can immerse themselves in the local culture and join in the festivities. These events showcase the region’s music, dance, and traditional costumes, providing a unique and memorable experience.

Nature lovers will find themselves in awe of South America’s diverse landscapes. From the lush Amazon rainforest to the majestic Andes mountains, the continent is a haven for outdoor enthusiasts. Students can embark on hiking expeditions, go wildlife spotting, or simply soak in the natural beauty that surrounds them. Whether it’s exploring the Galapagos Islands or trekking to the ancient ruins of the Lost City in Colombia, South America offers endless opportunities for adventure and exploration.

No discussion of South America would be complete without mentioning its delectable cuisine. Each country in the region has its own unique culinary traditions, with dishes that are sure to tantalize the taste buds. From feasting on Argentinean steak and empanadas to savoring Peruvian ceviche and Brazilian feijoada, students can indulge in a gastronomic journey like no other.

In conclusion, studying in South America is not just about gaining an education; it is about immersing oneself in a vibrant and diverse culture. From the various accommodation options to the plethora of cultural and social opportunities, students have the chance to create unforgettable memories and broaden their horizons. So, pack your bags, embrace the unknown, and embark on a transformative journey in South America!

Career Opportunities after Graduation

Graduation from a South American university is a globally recognized achievement that can open the doors to a world of career opportunities.

Job Market in South America

The job market in South America is as diverse as the continent itself, with opportunities across various fields such as business, technology, education, health, and more.

Work Opportunities for International Graduates

Many international graduates choose to stay and work in South America post-graduation, taking advantage of the growing economies and expanding multinational companies. Also, a degree from a South American university can be a valuable asset when seeking employment on the worldwide stage.

Therefore, studying in South America can bring not only academic achievements but also unique life experiences, career opportunities, and lifelong friendships from around the world.


In conclusion, South America stands as a vibrant and diverse continent that offers an exceptional educational experience for international students. From its historic and prestigious institutions to its emerging educational hubs, South America’s universities provide a rich environment for learning, research, and personal growth. These universities excel in their commitment to research, community engagement, and fostering multicultural experiences.

Group of students walking in the stairs.

The academic journey in South America is enriched by a variety of factors, including a strong focus on research, a sense of social responsibility, and a multicultural atmosphere. The universities on this continent continually uphold their commitment to academic excellence and offer an array of extracurricular activities, cultural events, and opportunities for personal development.

Moreover, South America presents a cost-effective option for international students, with affordable tuition fees and a lower cost of living compared to many other regions. Scholarships and financial aid programs further alleviate the financial burden, ensuring that students from diverse backgrounds can pursue their educational dreams.

As international students embark on this transformative journey, they have the chance to immerse themselves in the unique culture and landscapes of South America. From historic landmarks to vibrant festivals, diverse landscapes, and delectable cuisine, South America offers a wealth of cultural and social experiences.

Ultimately, graduating from a South American university opens doors to global career opportunities, making it a wise investment in one’s future. By choosing South America, international students can access some of the best universities, ensuring a well-rounded education and a truly unforgettable experience.

Having all the necessary information is important before choosing any course of action. AdmissionSight is always here to assist you with any questions or concerns. We have more than ten years of expertise assisting students in successfully navigating the challenging admissions process.

Consult with AdmissionSight and find out what we can do to help you get into the school of your choice by ensuring that you are sufficiently aware and well-prepared for the application process.

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