The Pontificia Universidad Católica de Chile is the leading university in Latin America, according to the QS Latin America University Rankings 2018.

Last year's winner, the Universidade de São Paulo, slipped to third behind Brazil’s Universidade Estadual de Campinas.

The QS rankings assess universities on indicators including academic reputation, the proportion of academic staff qualified to PhD level, online presence, and the quality of individual subjects.

Image: QS

Which faculties ranked first?

For social sciences, including law, finance and politics degrees, Pontificia Universidad Católica de Chile was ranked first and joint-63rd globally. It scored 75.3 overall, narrowly ahead of the Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México (UNAM), which scored 75.2.

However in arts and humanities, which typically includes english literature and language and history degrees, UNAM was the top Latin American university. It also ranked joint-51st globally out of more than 950 universities from 84 countries.

UNAM was also the best performing university in terms of engineering and technology degrees, but only ranked joint-137th overall globally.

UNAM in Mexico is the best university for engineering degrees
Image: REUTERS/Enrique Castro-Mendivil

Meanwhile, the Universidade de Sao Paulo ranked first across two subject areas. For life science and medicine degrees, typically psychology and pharmacology, it scored 75.3 overall, and ranked joint-63rd globally.

For natural sciences subjects, such as mathematics and chemistry, it scored particularly well across the academic reputation category (84.9), but only ranked joint-109th globally. This is thanks partly to scoring just 63.3 in the employer reputation category.

Individual academic achievements

In terms of individual subjects, Latin American universities often fell outside the top 100. However, UNAM was the best Latin American university at which to study law, ranking 37th globally.

It was also the best Latin American institution at which to study a modern language degree, ranking 23rd globally.

For theology, divinity and religious studies, Latin America’s top university, Pontificia Universidad Católica de Chile, was ranked first and 33rd globally. The university was also ranked first for those studying education and 21st globally.