The Colombian Study Abroad Market

In this market report on Colombia we will cover socio-economic, educational and mobility trends. Although Colombia has beefed up its education spending in recent years, higher education funding is low and fails to keep up with increasing enrollment number. This is one of the drivers for outbound mobility. The demand for places in Colombian universities is much higher than can be accommodated.

Between 2009 and 2022, the total number of Colombian overseas students more than doubled, going from 21,808 to 56,910, making Colombia the largest sending country of international students in Latin America after Brazil. Furthermore, Colombia is a booming market for English language training (ELT).

On a domestic level, the number of university students increased by 140 percent between 2002 and 2020, from about 1 million to 2.6 million (UNESCO data). Colombia’s middle class has grown to nearly 32 percent of the total population. The demand for international study programs is rising in this income group. This trend is expected to continue, despite the COVID-19 fall out. (source: All this and more in the Market Report on Colombia.

Quick facts

  • Population: 50,8 million (2020)

  • Education: 8 – 9 years compulsory

  • Academic year: February – November

Secondary education

  • Starting age: 13

  • Duration: 6 years (3 years lower secondary, 3 years upper secondary education)

  • Enrollment numbers: 4.8 million (2019)
    Enrollment rate: 96%

Higher education

  • Duration: 4 – 7 years (bachelor) – 1 – 2 years (Master) – 4 years (PhD)

  • Enrollment numbers: 2.4 million (2019)

  • Tertiary enrollment rate: 56%

  • Universities / Institutions: 112

Colombian Education System

The Colombian education system is made up of: early childhood education, preschool education, basic education (five grades of primary and four grades of secondary), high school education (two grades and ends with the bachelor’s degree), and higher education. Education is compulsory for children aged between 6-14. The language of education is Spanish.

Secondary education

Educación básica (primary education) is compulsory for children aged 6-14, and is provided by both public and private schools. Programs has a nominal duration of 9 years, and are usually taken at a colegio or at a liceo or instituto.

Secondary education is divided in basic secondary (grades 6 to 9) and mid secondary (grades 10 and 11). The upper-secondary education (usually beginning at the age of 15 or 16) offers many different ‘tracks’, which all lead to their own ‘Bachiller’ after a curriculum of two years.

Admission to Higher Education

Admission to university higher education requires a Bachiller Académico/Comercial/Técnico certificate obtained by passing the state exam (Examen de Estado) administered by the Instituto Colombiano para la Evaluación de la Educación (ICFES).

Higher Education system

Higher education is being offered by private and public institutions. There are four different types: universidades (universities), instituciones universitarias or escuelas tecnológicas (university institutes or technological institutes), instituciones tecnológicas (technological institutions) and instituciones técnicas profesionales (technical training institutes).

Bachelor / Pregrado
The bachelor stage is called Pregrado. Pregrado programs take 4 to 7 years to complete. Upon completion the degree of Licenciado is usually awarded.

Master / Maestría
Admission to the Maestría requires an entrance examination and a Licenciado degree or professional qualification. Maestría programs have a nominal duration of 1 to 2 years and are concluded with a thesis. The degree of Magister is awarded upon completion, which offers direct access to PhD programs.

Doktor / Doctorado
Admission to Doctorado programs is only possible with a Maestría degree. PhD programs take an average of 4 years to complete.

Colombian Educational System

Latest Colombian Higher Education study abroad stats

At this point a total number of 56,910 Colombian students are studying abroad for a degree in higher education. The most popular study abroad destinations among students from Colombia are:

Colombian students studying abroad
UNESCO study abroad data

IB schools in Colombia

Best performing Colombian Universities

Looking to partner with Universities from Colombia? These are the best performing universities.

Pontifical Javeriana University

THE Rank: 401 – 500

University of the Andes

THE Rank: 601 – 800

University of Antioquia

THE Rank: 1001+

Upcoming education fairs in Colombia

Scholarships for Colombian students

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