South America region | University of Oxford
Buenos Aires
Colorful houses in Buenos Aires, Argentina.
(Image credit: milosk50 / Shutterstock).

South America region


The Latin American Centre (LAC) at St Antony’s College was founded in 1964 and is now one of the seven constituent units of the School of Interdisciplinary Area Studies. The main aims of the Centre are: to educate graduate students in a range of disciplines applied to Latin America; to promote research on Latin America; to support a research library; to bring students and academics from Latin America to the University; and to organize seminars, lectures, workshops and conferences on the region. The LAC works to promote a greater understanding of modern Latin America through teaching, research, and through a range of events open to the public. It has a long tradition of research in history, democratisation and political economy. The LAC operates multidisciplinary MPhil and MSc programmes in Latin American Studies and also supports DPhil students across the university. The LAC also operates a dynamic Brazilian Studies Programme with a focus on the politics and global emergence of Brazil as well as Brazilian history, finance, international relations, literature and environmental policy.

The Sub-Faculty of Portuguese has more than 50 students and has two permanent lecturerships in Portuguese and Brazilian Studies. The study of Portuguese language at Oxford goes back to 1933 and Oxford is one of the only UK universities where students can study Portuguese in combination with any other language that Oxford offers, or in the Joint Schools with English, History, Modern Middle Eastern Languages, Philosophy, or Classics. In Oxford, Portuguese is taught in a small, but growing sub-faculty. Students have language classes, lectures, and tutorials with their peers studying Portuguese from across the university.

The Sub-Faculty of Spanish is one of the largest centres in the United Kingdom for research into the literatures and cultures of the Spanish-speaking world. The Spanish undergraduate course at Oxford reflects the diversity and richness of the languages and the cultures of Spain as well as of the South and Central American countries. Undergraduates can study Spanish on its own, with another modern language, or in one of the various Joint Schools (with English, History, Philosophy, a classical language, or a Middle-Eastern language). The sub-faculty enjoys a flourishing research culture and MSt and MPhil students may study the Programme in Spanish American Studies with options including Realism and its alternatives in Spanish American narrative, Latin American Avant-garde Poetry, Political Commitment and the Avant-garde in Latin American Literature, Borges, Sex, Sexuality and Masculinities in Spanish American Literature, Latin American Cultural Studies, Latin American Cinema and The Body in 20th- and 21st-Century Spanish American Fiction.


The Institute of Social and Cultural Anthropology is running a teaching and research programme into Amazonian anthropology focusing mainly on the indigenous peoples of the Amazon and their life cycle. Current research aims to shed light on the interrelatedness of people and their environments, the constitution of persons and social identities, and relations between the material and social world.

Opportunities to Study and Work

In November 2007, Oxford joined the Santander Universities Network. Santander supports a variety of programmes that enhance Oxford’s relationship with Santander countries – nine countries in Iberia and Latin America, including funding academic travel grants. It provides up to £1,000 for Oxford graduate students to visit Santander countries for academic work (fieldwork, archival research, etc.). Oxford students who have been awarded this opportunity frequently report back on the tremendous value of their visits to Latin America which allows them to advance their research significantly. Modern languages students may spend a year abroad studying or working in South America.

Libraries and Museums

The University houses extensive resources from South America in its museums, libraries and gardens.

The Botanic Garden of the University contains a number of geographical beds, and the South American collection at the northern border includes Acca sellowiana, a beautiful flowering and fruit bearing plant, sometimes known as the Pineapple guava, which is native to the highlands of southern Brazil, eastern Paraguay, Uruguay, northern Argentina, and Colombia.

The Bodleian Latin American Centre Library has substantial Latin American Studies teaching and research collections (history, politics, economics and development), primarily in support of the two Masters courses run by the Latin American Centre and the Brazilian Studies Programme (MPhil and MSc in Latin American Studies). The Library also offers support to DPhil students studying Latin American Studies throughout the University and undergraduates studying Latin American options offered by other departments. The Library orders books (including books on Latin American History) recommended by the Centre fellows and the subject consultant, and supports all Centre reading lists.

The Pitt Rivers Museum has one of the most important ethnography and archaeology collections in the world ranging from ancient artefacts to contemporary everyday objects. This scope is reflected in the material from Latin and South America, including textiles from Peru, Guatemala and Mexico, a collection of South American Feather Headdresses and its large collection of South American Tropical Forest Material.

Social Sciences

The Transmedia Literacy project aims to understand how children learn cultural and social skills outside the school environment. The team is identifying informal learning strategies and practices applied by young people outside formal institutions and ‘translating’ them into a series of activities and proposals to be implemented inside school settings. Partners include the University of the Republic in Uruguay and the Pontifical Xavierian University in Colombia.

Political Technologies of Memory is an interdisciplinary research project in collaboration with Alberto Hurtado University, running from 2015 to 2018. It addresses the phenomenon of the violation of human rights by the last civil-military dictatorship in Chile (1973-1990) and the way this has been inscribed and re-inscribed for the last forty years through the different devices and technologies used in the practices and organisation of registering, assisting with and denouncing these atrocities, and later, in their reparation and memory.

The Corporate Responsibility for Human Rights Violations during Past Dictatorships and Armed Conflicts: Promoting Strategic Litigation and Truth Commissions project, which ran from 2015 to 2017, considered the issue of corporate complicity in past human rights violations in dictatorships and armed conflicts. A collaboration between the University of Oxford Latin American Centre and Sociology Department, ANDHES and CELS in Argentina, and Dejusticia in Colombia, it aimed to achieve corporate accountability, develop a truth commission model that target corporate complicity in human rights violations, and produce synergistic work that links efforts of activists and scholars working on corporate accountability.

Mathematical, Physical and Life Sciences

The Global Jet Watch is a unique project linking professional astronomers with schoolchildren around the world to carry out cutting edge research. Dedicated to investigating the behaviour of black holes, it employs small telescopes, strategically separated in longitude around the globe so there is always one in darkness, to provide around the clock data to the headquarters in Oxford. Observatories located in boarding schools in India, Chile, Australia and South Africa are equipped with research-grade instrumentation and bespoke spectrographs providing continuous monitoring of black hole SS433, the first undertaking of its kind. The project seeks in particular to engage girls from around the world and inspire a new generation of scientists.

The University of Oxford and the Open University have established a research collaboration with the Chilean Biotech company Consorcio Regenero. This is a major strategic commitment to develop an effective affordable treatment for chronic wounds. These are painful, incapacitating and life-threatening ulcers, which form because the body’s natural healing response breaks down. The aim is to develop an ambitious new tissue-engineered treatment for reconstructing chronic wounds.

Oxford’s Department of Materials has had a long standing collaborative relationship with the University of Buenos Aires on aluminium alloys for the automotive and aerospace industries. This collaboration has included joint research work and opportunities for academic visiting posts at each institution, and co-supervision of each other’s graduate students. Collaborations are also taking place in chemical engineering.

Working with regional botanists, fieldwork by Oxford University scientists in the Andes, one of the world’s hottest regions of plant diversity, has uncovered over 100 plants new to science during the last decade. These include an entirely new genus named Maraniona, related to the familiar peas and beans, lurking in the Marañon Valley in Peru, and the Charango tree, Aspidosperma resonans used to make traditional musical instruments in Bolivia.

Medical Sciences

A $4.3 million (USD) grant from the São Paulo Research Foundation (FAPESP) plus an in-kind contribution of US$ 1.9 million by the University of Campinas (UNICAMP), totalling US$ 6,2 million – announced in March 2015 – established Brazil’s first open-access research facility, the Protein Kinase Chemical Biology Centre at the UNICAMP in Brazil. The centre, led by Professor Paulo Arruda of UNICAMP, examines the protein kinases in the human genome that are key regulators of RNA biology and epigenetics and explores the application of the new discoveries to plant research. The centre advances unrestricted discovery as a member of the Structural Genomics Consortium (SGC) — a public-private partnership that supports the discovery of new medicines through open access research — that is based in Oxford, U.K. and Toronto, Canada.

Scientists from Oxford's Jenner Institute, the MRC-University of Glasgow Centre for Virus Research and Brazilian colleagues from the Research Center Aggeu Magalhães at the Oswaldo Cruz Foundation in Pernambuco, Brazil are carrying out world-leading research into the Zika virus outbreak, which has been declared a global health emergency by the World Health Organisation. The virus has gained global notoriety since late 2015 due to its rapid spread through the Americas and its potential link with microcephaly which causes birth defects in infants. The main objective is to study the presence and epidemiology of the Zika virus in Brazil and to understand the impacts of infection on the immune system. Genetic techniques will be used to improve our understanding of the biology of Zika virus during infection and to support diagnostics - with the ultimate aim being the development of a vaccine. 


In Peru, the Young Lives (Niños del Milenio), in partnership with the Group for the Analysis of Development (GRADE) and International Nutrition Institute (IIN), has focused its efforts on providing evidence to ensure inequality remains a priority agenda for policymakers. Young Lives provides an excellent opportunity to follow the growth and nutrition of two cohorts of children, while also studying household food security and dietary diversity.

In 2012, the Latin American Centre announced the establishment of a strategic partnership with the CAF Development Bank of Latin America. Through research, training and public outreach, CAF and LAC work together toward their shared goal of building policy expertise on the challenges facing the region.  The partners are collaborating on several exciting projects including the annual hosting of a CAF-Development Bank of Latin America Visiting Fellowship in Latin American Economics. The partnership also hosts joint seminars to discuss the latest research from CAF Development Bank, an annual conference as well as supporting a research project focusing on inequality in Latin America.


There are over 180 students from South America studying at Oxford, from 11 different countries. Nearly half are studying subjects in the Social Sciences, and about a fifth are in the Mathematical, Physical and Life Sciences division.


South American students applying to Oxford have access to a range of scholarship opportunities to support their studies, particularly at graduate level. The Clarendon Fund provides over a hundred fully funded scholarships to academically outstanding students each year. Oxford also actively participates in well-known scholarship programmes (such as the British Government’s flagship Chevening Scholarships) and hosts a wide variety of post-doctoral Research Fellowships. At undergraduate level, South American students studying for an Oxford degree are eligible to apply for the Reach Oxford Scholarships, which cover university and college fees, living expenses and annual return flights.The Santander Universities Network funds the Santander Scholarships which help Oxford to attract outstanding students from Santander countries, including Latin America. Each year 12 Santander Graduate Awards are available to support candidates applying for a full-time one-year Master’s degree.


The Oxford-Latin American Society is a hub for all the academic, social and cultural activities that involve Latin American themes and topics in Oxford. The Oxford Latin American Society aims to increase knowledge and raise interest in Latin America amongst Oxford University students and the Oxford community in general.


There are 54 academics from South America at Oxford, more than a third of whom are from Brazil. Many leading writers, academics and politicians from Latin America have visited Oxford to lecture or to receive honours. Some of the most distinguished of the former have been Jorge Luis Borges, Carlos Fuentes, Manuel Puig, Mario Vargas Llosa and the Nobel Prize winner, Octavio Paz.  Honorary doctorates were conferred on Pablo Neruda in 1965 and on Jorge Luis Borges in 1971.

Alex Kacelnik (Argentina)

Alex Kacelnik is Emeritus Professor of Behavioural Ecology and E.P. Abraham Fellow of Pembroke College. He trained as a zoologist in Argentina, later worked in zoology and psychology departments in Oxford, Groningen and Cambridge, until returning to Oxford in 1990 to set up the present Behavioural Ecology Group. The group studies animal and human behaviour from a multidisciplinary perspective, combining experimental analysis of behaviour with theoretical modelling. Current research includes studying the cognitive and ecological basis of tool use in New Caledonian crows, and investigating decision-making and risk-sensitivity in starlings and humans. He has published over 200 scientific papers during his career and won awards that include the Comparative Cognition Society’s Research Award in 2011, the 2004 Cogito Prize for his contributions to furthering collaboration between the humanities and natural sciences and the de Robertis Medal for contributions to neuroscience.

Kia Nobre (Brazil)

Kia Nobre is the Head of Department of Experimental Psychology, Chair in Translational Cognitive Neuroscience and Professorial Fellow at St Catherine's College. She is interested in understanding the principles of the neural systems that support cognitive functions in the human brain. Her current research looks at how neural activity linked to perception and cognition is modulated according to memories, task goals and expectations. In addition to revealing the basic mechanisms of these large-scale dynamic regulatory mechanisms, she is interested in how these develop over the lifespan, and how they are disrupted in psychiatric and neurodegenerative disorders. She is also Director of the Oxford Centre for Human Brain Activity, Chair of the Oxford Neuroscience Strategy Committee, Head of the Brain & Cognition Lab, Fellow of the British Academy and a Member of the Academia Europea.


There are almost 1,300 alumni in South America, spread over twelve countries, with Brazil, Chile, Argentina, Colombia and Peru having the highest concentration. Alumni in South America have access to 6 alumni societies – the Oxford & Cambridge Dining Society of the River Plate (formerly Buenos Aires), OUS Brazil, OUS Chile, the Oxford Colombia Alumni Network, the Oxford & Cambridge Society of Peru and OUS Uruguay.

The first Colombian to be awarded an Oxford degree was Rafael Parga Cortés who went on to play a prominent role in Colombian public life, particularly in the Department of Tolima where he was Minister, Governor and founder of Universidad del Tolima.

Other famous Colombian alumni include:

  • Jaime Bermúdez, the former Foreign Minister of Colombia from 2008 to 2010 and former Ambassador of Colombia to Argentina
  • Ingrid Betancourt, Colombian-French politician, former senator and anti-corruption activist
  • Gustavo Bell, Vice-President of Colombia from 1998 to 2002 and current Ambassador of Colombia to Cuba
  • Francisco José Lloreda Mera, Colombian lawyer, politician, writer, editor and newspaper director.
  • Álvaro Uribe, President of Colombia from 2002 to 2010

Oxford also educated Carlos Andrés Escudé Carvajal, an Argentine political scientist and author, who during the 1990s served as special advisor to one of Argentina's most distinguished Foreign Ministers - Guido di Tella. A well-known Oxford alumnus from Peru is Pedro Pablo Kuczynski who was Prime Minister of Peru from 2005 to 2006.

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