Three Chilean universities among top 100 in Latam; two Brazilian and a Mexican rank first
Three Chilean research universities have placed in the top 100 Latin American universities, according to a new study released last week by Iberoamericano SIR 2012.
Universidad de Chile, Universidad de Católica, and Universidad de Concepción were ranked 10th, 14th, and 28th, respectively, in the ranking published by SCImago Research Group devoted to measuring the research activity of higher education institutions in the region.
“This is not much of a surprise,” Kyle Simonson, a Fulbright scholar from the US conducting research on environmental engineering at the Universidad de Católica, told The Santiago Times. “UC really does have a great commitment to science, especially engineering”.
The SCImago rankings results were based on five indicators: scientific production, ratio of international collaboration, average scientific quality of each institution, proportion of articles published in magazines of prestige, and an excellence research rate.
The study included 1.401 universities in Latin America, Spain, and Portugal. It examined the quality and quantity of scientific research production from 2006 to 2010.
Simonson credited Católica’s faculty for its success.
“Many of its professors studied abroad for their Ph.D.s in some of the best institutions in the world and I think this helps as they are able to bring back their experience,” he said.
The SCImago is a research evaluation centre for universities and research-devoted institutions worldwide. Its rankings are considered a tool of analysis for governments and universities to ensure that universities are properly fulfilling their requirements for research in the areas of science policy, institutional management, and other specializations.
Dr. Miguel O’Ryan, the vice rector of research department at Universidad de Chile, told The Santiago Times that the results were a great indicator of the quality of research at the university, but that there was still plenty of work to be done.
“Although we have increased our output by 7% in the last year, we need to be able to offer more Ph.D.s and have more centres of excellence than we do already,” O’Ryan said. “In the next ten years we’d like to be in the top five universities in Latin America, in the top 10 in Iberoamerica and in the top 200 in the world, but that is a long way down the road”.
The universities of Chile, Católica and Concepción were the highest-ranking universities of 55 Chilean institutions that appeared in the report.
Other Chilean institutions in the ranking include the Universidad de Santiago (112th); Universidad Austral (114th); the Universidad Técnica Federico Santa María (126th); the Universidad Católica de Valparaíso (139th); Universidad Católica del Norte (152th); Universidad de la Frontera (157th); Universidad de Talca (159th); and the Universidad de Valparaíso (177th).
The Universidade de São Paulo in Brazil ranked first, followed by the Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México and the Universidade Estadual de Campinas, also in Brazil.
Although O’Ryan considered the SCImago ranking one of the most objective rankings of its type, he did point out that the findings fail to take into account the size of the institution. The Universidade de São Paulo in Brazil is ranked first, but it has 80.000 students in comparison with Universidad de Chile’s 30.000.
If the size of the academic community is taken into account, the Universidad de Chile has the greatest number of citations in academic publications in all of Latin America, O’Ryan said.
Despite this, O’Ryan said that both Universidad de Chile and Universidad de Católica are struggling to convince the authorities to award more of the country’s GDP to fund university research. Currently Chile spends 0.7% of its GDP on university level research in comparison with Brazil whose government spends anywhere between 2 and 4%, O’Ryan said.
“Brazil is in a strong position in the ranking mainly because of the investment of its government in higher education research over the last ten years,” O’Ryan said. “This is how it has come to be one of the leading countries in the continent and the world.”
O’Ryan is hoping that Chile’s government will agree to increase university research funding from 0.7% to 2% in the next couple of years and is even pushing for a National Policy of Research and Development, but the outlook is not good.
Despite this, the university has several programs to help individuals and groups apply for grants from the government, including one that helps students with buying expensive but necessary scientific equipment.
By Olivia Crellin - The Santiago Times