Brazil has more universities in a new top 200 ranking for Central and South America than any other country in the region. The lusophone nation hosts 65 of the top 200 universities in the QS University Rankings: Latin America, with the University of São Paolo topping the table.
It is followed by Mexico (35 universities in top 200), Argentina (25), Chile (25), Colombia (21), Peru (six), and Venezuela (five).
Brazil has 31 universities in the top 100. In comparison, Argentina has 19, Mexico 15, Chile 14, Colombia eight, Venezuela four, and Peru two. Bolivia, Costa Rica, Cuba, Ecuador and Uruguay have one apiece.
But Brazil's performance at the top of the ranking is far from overwhelming, with just three universities in the top 10 - equal with Chile and just ahead of Mexico and Argentina with two each.
In the 2011 QS World University Rankings, The Autonomous University of Mexico (UNAM) and São Paolo were equal 169th.
QS analysts said that substantial government investment had propelled Brazil's universities to the top of the rankings. University enrolment has tripled in the last decade and evidence suggests the investment in higher education is fuelling the country's rapid economic growth.
Danny Byrne, editor of TopUniversities.com, said: "As several governments in the West scale back university funding, the BRICS nations (Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa) are pouring funds into building world-class universities.
"These nations see education as key to fulfilling their potential as economic superpowers. China and India have already unveiled ambitious investment plans, but this research suggests Brazil may yet emerge as a major player in the international scene."
Brazil's performance was strong in both teaching and in research, with the region's highest proportion of academics holding a PhD following steps to improve teaching quality, and with eight of the top 10 universities for research productivity.
QS head of research Ben Sowter said: "Brazil's economy is already the seventh largest in the world, and Goldman Sachs has predicted it will overtake those of Canada, Italy, France, the UK and Germany in the next 20 years.
"World-class higher education will be central to this development, and the new QS rankings show that Brazil's investment is already beginning to reap dividends."
The new QS ranking methodology employs criteria that address region-specific issues, such as the proportion of faculty with a PhD, research productivity per capita and web presence. The research also draws on the largest surveys of Latin American academics and employers ever conducted.
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