The SCImago Research Group has just published a new ranking of Ibero-American universities, based on their research productivity, which is available for download, in Spanish.  The indicators are based on the scientific publications. The leading research university in the group, in volume of academic publications, is the University of São Paulo, USP followed by the Autonomous University of México, UNAM, University of Campinas, UNICAMP, and two Spanish institutions, University of Barcelona and Complutense de Madrid. Of the ten more productive institutions, five are Spanish, four Brazilian, and one Mexican; the University of Buenos Aires, UBA, is in the 11th place. Among the first 20, 7 are from Brazil, 8 from Spain, 1 from México, 1 from Argentina, 2 from Portugal, and 1 from Chile.
In part, the high volume of publications of USP - (37.9 thousand) and UNAM (17.3 thousand) is a function of their large size. Still, USP is smaller than UNAM and the University of Buenos Aires, but has a much larger graduate education sector and research. Spanish universities have much higher scores in quality indicators such as international cooperation, average scientific quality and percentage of publications in high ranking journals than the Latin American ones.
This ranking reflects the continuous expansion of Brazil’s graduate programs, which, with about 10 thousand Ph.D. degrees granted every year, has no parallel in other Ibero American countries. However, the data also shows that this expansion has had some cost in terms of quality. Almost all these programs are in public universities, which, however, account for only about 20% of enrolment in higher education in the country.
The highest private Latin American university in the ranking is the Catholic University of Chile, 32, followed by the Catholic University in Rio de Janeiro, in the 73th place. One of the reasons for the dominance of public institutions is that their budget is guaranteed by the governments and they are better placed to compete for research money when it is available. Private institutions, on the other hand, have to survive on student tuition, which cannot be very high, and have difficulty retaining high quality, full time staff. In some countries, Catholic universities have been able to compete with public institutions, and the Catholic University of Chile gets regular support from the government, which is not true in other parts. These religious institutions, however, are today just a small part of a much larger and expanding private higher education sector which, with some exceptions, deals only with low cost, undergraduate education, and no research that registers in the Scopus database.