View over Rio de Janeiro, looking towards mountains
View of Rio de Janeiro by Jean-Marc Astesana, CC BY-SA 2.0,

South America region

South America studies at Oxford

Study and teaching about South America takes place in departments throughout the University’s academic divisions. There are also several units with a strong concentration on the region.

The Faculty of Medieval and Modern Languages

Oxford’s Faculty of Medieval and Modern Languages covers South American Spanish and Portuguese. The Spanish sub-faculty at Oxford is one of the largest teaching units of Hispanic studies in the UK, and the Portuguese sub-faculty is the only independent Portuguese department in the UK.

The Modern Languages faculty also runs an annual festival called Brazil Week. It aims to raise awareness about the richness and diversity of Brazilian culture, with free events open to members of the University and the general public.

The Latin American Centre

Oxford’s Latin American Centre (LAC) is a multi-disciplinary hub for the study of Latin and South America. The centre’s research covers a wide range of topics, and it hosts visiting academics and students.

The Latin American Centre is also home to a specialised Brazilian studies programme, which is a hub for the study of Brazil at Oxford. It hosts a yearly conference on Brazil as well as regular academic visitors from Brazil.

Libraries and museums

The Taylor Institution Library holds the University’s main collections of Brazilian and Portuguese literature.

The Bodleian Latin American Centre Library is a specialist collection that focuses on Latin American politics, economics, social sciences and 20th century history.

South America is a focus of recent collection activity at the Pitt Rivers Museum, the University’s museum of ethnographic and archaeological objects. Notable holdings include collections of prints from Gran Chaco and Peru from around 1900. The museum has also acquired the field archives of several anthropologists who worked in South America between the 1960s and 80s.

The Botanic Garden of the University has a geographic plant bed devoted to plants from South America.

Collaborations with South American institutions

This is a selection of Oxford’s collaborative work with organisations in South America.

Mathematical, Physical and Life Sciences collaborations

The Global Jet Watch study of black holes both studies the universe and promotes an interest in science to children. The project uses a collection of five small telescopes worldwide to study black holes. Four of the five telescopes have been located at boarding schools, including one in Chile, whose pupils are assisted and encouraged to use the equipment themselves. Oxford’s Professor Katherine Blundell, the project’s leader, received an OBE in 2017 for ‘services to astronomy and the education of young people’.

Medical Sciences collaborations

The Structural Genomics Consortium (SGC) is a long-term project to determine the 3D structure of different human proteins, with members including Oxford and the University of Campinas (UNICAMP) in Brazil. Most medicines work by binding to proteins. Knowing the shape of a protein can make it possible to design a drug specifically to ‘fit’ it, making the process of creating a new drug faster. The discoveries made by the project are all released into the public domain.

Oxford runs the International Fetal and Newborn Growth Consortium for the 21st Century (INTERGROWTH-21st) network, which has a major study site at the Universidade Federal de Pelotas in Brazil. The project aims to establish what constitutes normal growth for foetuses and new-born babies, and to eventually have their findings incorporated into the World Health Organisation’s child growth standard. Restricted growth can cause significant near- and long-term effects on health, hence the importance of knowing what can be considered normal.

Social Sciences collaborations

The Oxford Poverty and Human Development Initiative runs the Multidimensional Poverty Peer Network, an international network working to measure and reduce poverty, with members in most South American countries. Its members work on ways of measuring poverty as a combination of different types of deprivation, that include aspects such as deprivation of health, education or quality of work, as well as simply of income.

Scholarships and travel assistance

There are many schemes offering funding for international undergraduate students and particularly funding for international graduate students to study at Oxford, as well as schemes to help students already at Oxford travel abroad.

Student societies

Oxford has official clubs and societies for people interested in, or who have a connection to, many different countries and regions.

Oxford alumni in South America

Oxford has a large number of alumni groups around the world.

Notable South American alumni

Distinguished Oxford alumni from South America include:

  • Vinícius de Moraes, Brazilian poet and lyricist. Wrote the lyrics to some of the seminal bossa nova songs, such as ‛The Girl from Ipanema’.
  • Álvaro Uribe, former president of Columbia (2002–10).
  • Pedro Pablo Kuczynski, former prime minister (2005–6) and president (2016–18) of Peru.