The Rise of Universidad de los Andes – the Fifth Best University in Latin America – Highlights Colombia’s Educational Advances
The Universidad de los Andes in Bogotá has been named the fifth best institution of higher education in Latin America in this year’s “World University Rankings” from the U.K.-based publication Times Higher Education. The position is a significant jump over the Colombian university’s 10th-place ranking in the 2016 edition and headlines an improving reputation for the nation’s colleges as a whole.
The University of the Andes, as its known in English, or in Colombia often as Uniandes, has 16,880 students and ranks particularly high in terms of producing influential research. While the school scored a 79.4 out of 100 in the overall research category (weighing volume, income, and reputation of research), it scored 92.9 in terms of its citation score, which captures the number of times a university’s published work is cited by scholars globally.
“It is an innovation- and research-led university with 163 laboratories, and admission is competitive,” wrote Times Higher Education in its analysis of the Universidad de los Andes. “Its students tend to have a strong academic background before applying. The university aims to produce ‘highly skilled’ and ‘well-rounded’ graduates. Many stay on to pursue further studies.”
Colombia is gaining steam against its regional peers and is part of the group of nations that Times Higher Education says are “most likely to become future higher-education stars.”
It isn’t just Uniandes that fared well in the rankings. Colombia, for the first time, now has five universities in the top 40. That is one more than Mexico, a nation that has well over twice as many people as Colombia, managed to produce.
Still, population and tradition does matter. In the overall rankings, Brazil’s many universities continue to dominate and Chile punches well above its weight class given its long history of prioritizing education.
But Colombia is gaining steam against its regional peers and is part of the group of nations that Times Higher Education says are “most likely to become future higher-education stars.” The organization has dubbed this rising global collective as the TACTICS: Thailand, Argentina, Chile, Turkey, Iran, Colombia, and Serbia.
Rise of Colombia and the TACTICS
Times Higher Education, in partnership with University College London, created this group in the tradition of the BRICS (Brazil, Russia, India, China, South Africa) and MINT (Mexico, Indonesia, Nigeria, Turkey). But while those assessments sought to define large, on-the-rise emerging economies in general, the TACTICS definition has an education focus.
Based on research by the two collaborators, these six countries all have a per-capita income of less than $15,000 USD and at least 50% of their youth population enrolled in higher education. And, crucially, each also saw that participation rate grow by at least 5% between 2010 and 2014 in addition to already having universities that pump out at least 30,000 research papers per year.
Overall, the TACTICS have a higher percentage of their university-aged students enrolled in higher education than the BRICS. Nicki Horseman, lead higher education data analyst at Times Higher Education, said in the analysis that “the TACTICS are a stratum above.”
She was surprised by these findings at first. But the data and investigation was conclusive. “That’s the thing that really stood out for me: that these countries that we haven’t really discussed before are, on average, better than the BRICS in terms of higher education,” she said in the analysis.
Where the Colombian Education System Still Lags
Colombia “has not invested enough in loans, grants, or other forms of financial aid.” – Times Higher Education
Despite its progress, Colombia remains a bit of a laggard even among the TACTICS in certain respects. Chief among them are its low public spending, just 1% of GDP, on higher education. Colombia “has not invested enough in loans, grants, or other forms of financial aid,” wrote the organization last year in its analysis of the TACTICS.
Argentina, by contrast, recently committed to increasing its investment in all forms of education to 6% of GDP, which would put it among the highest in the world. Chile, long a standout in this regard, “spends more on research and development relative to its size than any other Latin American country except Brazil,” stated Times Higher Education.
This disparity is reflected in the number of advanced degrees. In Colombia, a country of nearly 50 million people, just 4,000 have a doctoral degree, according to Times Higher Education. “This means that most scholars lack the credentials to be competitive at submitting papers to peer-reviewed journals and they focus instead on teaching,” stated the organization.
In part due to this reality, Colombia’s research output is the lowest of the six countries as well. There is good news on that front, however: The Andean nation is seeing the fastest growth in this category among the six TACTICS countries, rising by 49% since 2011.
Four Colombian Universities Rank in Top 25 of Latin America
Overall, 11 of the 81 Latin American institutions in the rankings are from Colombia. An impressive seven of these are newcomers to the World University Rankings list
Even though more improvement is required, Colombia now has four universities among the top 25 in Latin America. Joining the Universidad de los Andes are the University of Antioquia (17th), National University of Colombia (20th), and Pontifical Javeriana University (25th).
A bit further down the list, Del Rosario University of Bogotá is tied with several other institutions at 36th overall to give the country five universities in the top 40, a first for Colombia.
Overall, 11 of the 81 Latin American institutions in the rankings are from Colombia. An impressive seven of these are newcomers to the World University Rankings list.
The others from Colombia outside of the top 40 are: Antonio Narino University (51st), University of the North (51st), Pontifical Bolivarian University (UPB) of Medellín (61st), Universidad Distrital Francisco José de Caldas (71st), University of La Sabana (71st), Technological University of Pereira (71st).
Methodology note: Outside of the top 25, Times Higher Education puts universities in different tiers that consist of: 26-30, 31-35, 36-40, 41-45, 46-50, 51-60, 61-70, and 71-81.
Photo: The Edifício Mario Laserna at the Universidad de los Andes in Bogotá, Colombia. (Credit: Leandro Neumann Ciuffo / Universidad de los Andes)